Political Pundits at Baylor University Analyze Issues for Presidential Election

The following faculty members from Baylor University analyze 2012 Presidential Election topics ranging from young voters' behavior and ranking polls to social media's role in politics and candidates' religious affiliations. For more information or to set up interviews with them, contact Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321.

Patrick Flavin: Teacher's unions, young voters, and voter behavior

Martin Medhurst: Religion and politics, evangelical vote, and contraceptive mandate

Curt Nichols: Presidential rankings, polls, and re-election

Mia Moody: Racism and social media

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The State of the Union and the State of the Voter: How Young People and Educators May Influence the Election

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Teachers, historically a group with a high turnout in elections and a tendency to vote Democrat – may be less predictable this time, given President Obama's call for tying teachers' pay to student performance and expanding charter schools - ideas unpopular with teachers' unions, says a Baylor University political scientist.

"You might see less enthusiasm, or teachers might be more likely to stay home than vote," says Patrick Flavin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science at Baylor and co-author of "From the Schoolhouse to the Statehouse: Teacher Union Political Activism and U.S. State Education Reform Policy," published in State Politics and Policy Quarterly.

"On the other hand, recent moves in several states to roll back teacher collective bargaining rights may energize them and get more to the polls," he said.

Young voters, meanwhile, could pack a considerable punch for Obama, who is ahead of Republican candidate Mitt Romney in polls of voters younger than 30.

"The question isn't who they would be more likely to vote for, but how much they'll turn out to vote," Flavin said. "In the 2008 election, there was a big increase in young voters. But they're still the least likely age group to vote."

For more about Flavin's areas of expertise, visit the Department of Political Science website.

For more information or to set up interviews with Dr. Patrick Flavin, contact Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321.

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Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience Could Be Key Issues in November

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Will issues of religious liberty affect the 2012 presidential race? "Quite possibly," said Martin Medhurst, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Baylor University.

Some Catholic voters are concerned about the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate, Medhurst said. Catholic institutions such as universities and hospitals are concerned about rules that force them to provide insurance coverage that violates their religious beliefs. These concerns are so serious that 43 Catholic institutions have filed suit against the Obama administration, he said.

Most recently an evangelical school, Wheaton College, also has filed suit against the administration, indicating that "concerns about religious liberty are spreading into different parts of the electorate," Medhurst said.

In 2008, the Obama campaign made outreach to Catholics and moderate evangelicals a priority. It paid off, with Obama increasing the Democrats' Catholic margin by 7 points over the 2004 Democratic candidate and adding a 5-point increase to the evangelical vote margin. Though these may seem small percentages, Catholics and evangelicals together represent more than 50 percent of the American electorate.

"Even a small percentage change in such a large group could spell the difference between victory and defeat in November," Medhurst said.

Medhurst has been quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

For more information or to set up interviews with Dr. Martin Medhurst, contact Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321.

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Transformative, or Average? Whether Obama Wins Reelection Likely Will Determine His Place with Evaluators of Presidential Greatness, Baylor Political Scientist Says

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"If Obama wins in November, it is quite possible he will establish himself as a transformative president with ranking experts," says Curt Nichols, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science at Baylor University. "Getting re-elected may allow him to protect the gains of his first administration and ‘bend the curve of history' towards growth of the welfare state."

Being seen as a transformative president is a key to being ranked as a great president, Nichols said. If Obama goes down in history as one, Nichols suggests experts could rank him as high as fourth or fifth on the all-time list - behind Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and George Washington. No transformative president has failed to be re-elected.

Nichols came to these conclusions using a statistical analysis technique known as regression analysis to determine what criteria experts used in past presidential ranking polls conducted by The Wall Street Journal, C-SPAN and the Siena Research Institute.

On the flip side, "if Mitt Romney wins, there is a good chance that Obama will be seen as a failed transformative president," Nichols says. "In this case, he would likely be rated as 'Average' by evaluators, landing somewhere right in the middle of the rankings pack - with presidents like William McKinley and George H.W. Bush."

Obama has professed a desire to be viewed as "a really good one-term president" should he not be re-elected, Nichols said. But that hope would be dashed if he loses.

Nichols has found that eight factors are consistently used by experts to give presidents their rating scores. He has been cited as an expert on the presidential rankings game in stories in U.S. News & World Report and on MSNBC.

For more information or to set up interviews with Dr. Curt Nichols, contact Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321.

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New Media, Old Messages: As the Election Nears, Obama and Family Remain a Target of ‘Blackface' Racism on Facebook

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Optimists predicted the election of the United States' first black president would mark the beginning of a "post-racial era," a day when policies to address racism would no longer be necessary, said Mia Moody, Ph.D., an assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media at Baylor.

But as President Obama makes his bid for reelection, some social media depictions of minorities – including Obama and his family -show that day has not arrived, said Moody.

Despite Facebook guidelines against "hate speech," fans of Facebook hate groups are relying heavily on old stereotypes of blacks as animalist, evil or shiftless - including depictions of the President as a chimp or sporting a bandana and a mouth full of gold teeth, said Moody, who conducted a study analyzing 20 Facebook groups/pages using the keywords, "hate," "Barack Obama," and "Michelle Obama."

Hate groups may have more impact than in past elections because of social media, Moody said.

"The growth of Facebook groups from a fringe activity to a significant communication source illustrates the recent evolution in the spread of hate speech," she said. "Hate groups, which might have remained benignly isolated at one time, recruit online and increase their numbers instantly."

Moody's study, New Media-Same Stereotypes: An Analysis of Social Media Depictions of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama may be viewed online. She has been featured in reports by NPR, Boston Globe, MSNBC and CBS Dallas/Fort Worth.

For more information or to set up interviews with Dr. Mia Moody, contact Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321.

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Contact Information

For more information or to set up interviews with the political science professors, contact Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321, or the Office of Media Communications at (254) 710-1961.