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Q&A: Analyzing the National Election Results

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Analysis  •

It took five days of vote counting, but this past weekend Joe Biden became president-elect. He will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2021. With vote counting still in progress, it’s possible that participation in this election could be the highest since 1900, long before women could vote.

The DU Newsroom asked some of our faculty experts to provide some of their insights into what has unfolded in the country over the past week.

Q: What do you think will be the lasting impact of the 2020 election, and how might that impact future elections?

Seth Masket
Seth Masket, professor of political science

A: The Republican Party will need to have a substantial conversation among its members to determine the lesson of this election. Some may come away thinking that, because of COVID-19, it was a flukish year, and Trump would have otherwise sailed to reelection. They may even consider renominating him in 2024. Others will likely see Trump as having boosted turnout but also damaged their party’s reputation, and they might have won the White House with a more conventional nominee.

One important lesson for both parties is that substance tends to be more important than salesmanship and scandal. The pandemic was damaging to Trump, but he devoted far more effort to trying to smear the Biden family as corrupt than to controlling the disease. This may well be perceived by future campaigns as a massive miscalculation of priorities.

Q: Several battleground states ended up much closer than polling indicated. However, in other states, like Colorado, the polling was very accurate. What factors may have contributed this year to make it difficult to attain accurate polling?

Floyd Ciruli
Floyd Ciruli, DU's Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

A: Polling has become an important aspect of functioning democracies around the world. It serves as a critical element to maintain the power of citizens. There are occasions where the final polling results in an election suggest the wrong winner or miss the final vote well beyond the margin of error, typically 2 to 4 points.

In Colorado, the final election polls were within the margin of error and identified the two statewide winners, Joe Biden and John Hickenlooper. However, nationally a media narrative developed that Democrats could benefit from a “blue wave” with the election of Joe Biden, winning control of the U.S. Senate and adding seats to the House of Representatives. That did not happen, but it’s too early to judge the accuracy or quality of the polls. Many of the late polls in contested states showed a tightening in the races and considerable volatility related to the extraordinary turnout. Several factors, including the large turnout, voters becoming resistant to polling and the intense final campaigns, make many elections, and especially 2020, difficult to measure. But the industry uses the best scientific procedures available and will assess any mistakes and make adjustments.

Q: Often, in the aftermath of an election, we see an impact on the business markets. What would be your recommendation to the public for how they should react to these changes?

Chris Hughen
Chris Hughen, associate professor of finance

A: It is tempting to read the latest headlines and feel the need to do something with your investment portfolio. However, patience is a virtue when investing. Put your money in assets than you can keep for at least 10 years. 

While congressional and presidential elections get the most attention, the federal reserve has more influence on financial markets. Interest rates should remain low for longer, and this is great news for an economy struggling to recover from the pandemic.

Q: The country witnessed record voter turnout this year. Do you believe this is the result of what we recently have witnessed and experienced in our society, or a larger sustained movement toward greater participation in democracy?

Apryl Alexander
Apryl Alexander, associate professor of psychology

A: Historically, there have been people who hesitate to vote because they were uncertain whether their individual voice and vote mattered. This year’s protests showed the power of collective action: When those individual voices come together to address societal injustices, change can occur. In Colorado, we witnessed this with the bipartisan passage of SB217, the country’s first comprehensive police integrity and accountability bill. The bill would not have passed if it weren’t for the brave people who gathered for weeks demanding action, and legislators respond to those constituents. In this election, we also witnessed collective action supporting the numerous BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and/or LGBTQ+ candidates running for office and winning. This year was a monumental turning point for voter engagement, which I hope to see continue during midterm elections.

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