St. Olaf exit polling adds context to election coverage
As voters turned out across Minnesota’s competitive Second Congressional District for the midterm elections, so did more than two dozen St. Olaf College students who were ready to ask people about the issues on their minds as they cast their ballots.
Exit poll data gathered by students in Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Chapp’s Parties and Elections course was of high interest to political reporters covering the Second Congressional District race, which was one of the most competitive — and expensive — contests in the 2022 midterms.
Chapp, who also serves as Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community, told MinnPost that his students talked with voters at polling places in South St. Paul, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Burnsville, Eagan, Montgomery, Lonsdale, and Belle Plaine, among other communities. They asked voters what issue they found most important as they cast their ballot, and two answers rose to the top: inflation and abortion.
Though concerns about crime had been a theme in many campaign ads, Chapp said the exit polling revealed that the economy and backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had a bigger impact.
“It was an election about inflation and abortion, and abortion remained just as salient as the day after the Dobbs decision, arguably,” Chapp said. “It was really important.”
St. Olaf exit poll data was also cited by the Minnesota Reformer in its post-election analysis of Minnesota’s high voter turnout and a separate MinnPost story on the factors that helped U.S. Rep. Angie Craig win re-election in a particularly close-matched race.
Students in Chapp’s class will present their research at the “Information, Elections, and the Future of American Democracy” undergraduate research conference at St. Olaf on December 8. The conference is sponsored by the Institute for Freedom and Community.
Chapp, a sought-out expert on political behavior and elections, was also featured in Star Tribune and WCCO-TV coverage of the Second Congressional District race and invited to present the exit poll results to the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and HumaninstsMN.
At St. Olaf Chapp teaches classes in political behavior and research methodology. He is the author of a book on religion in American politics and is currently working on a book on the role public opinion plays in policymaking on abortion and LGBTQ rights. In 2022 Chapp was appointed Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community, which supports academic offerings in the Public Affairs Conversation (PACON) and hosts and supports programming meant to foster constructive dialogue.