St. Olaf hosts conference on 2018 midterm elections
St. Olaf College hosted its second biennial conference on undergraduate research and American elections on December 6.
The conference, organized and led by Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Chapp, highlighted student research as well as the ways students engaged in civic processes during the 2018 midterm elections.
The conference featured interdisciplinary perspectives and analysis of the election, including:
- Undergraduate research panels exploring Minnesota’s Second Congressional district through the lens of an election-day exit poll.
- Undergraduate research panels exploring political communication in congressional races across the country.
- Poster presentations highlighting Academic Civic Engagement at St. Olaf.
“The level of analysis was really professional,” says Chapp. “Students are producing research on par with graduate students, and, more incredibly, they did it all in the space of a single semester.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Chris ChappThe level of analysis was really professional. Students are producing research on par with graduate students, and, more incredibly, they did it all in the space of a single semester.
Groups paid particular attention to the role of gender in an election that saw a record number of female candidates, as well as a pronounced and widening gap in the American electorate. Additional attention was given to political rhetoric, including the causes and consequences of uncivil discourse.
Chapp noted that the conference was well-attended, demonstrating interest in political analysis both on-campus and in the community at large.
“I’m really grateful that we had participation from students and faculty across the college,” he says. “A number of local civic leaders, alumni, teachers, and election judges were in attendance too. It’s really fulfilling when you can draw a big crowd of people who are so interested in elections and voting.”
It’s really fulfilling when you can draw a big crowd of people who are so interested in elections and voting.Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Chapp
The conference culminated with a keynote address delivered by University of Notre Dame Professor of Political Science Christina Wolbrecht, the director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, and the C. Robert and Margaret Hanley Family Director of the Notre Dame Washington Program.
Wolbrecht’s keynote address touched on the narrative that the 2018 election was the “year of the women.” In her presentation she analyzed the prevalence of women’s movements in politics that have immediately followed the 2016 election.
The 2018 Midterm Elections conference was sponsored by the St. Olaf Leraas Fund, the St. Olaf Social Sciences Division, the Academic Civic Engagement program, and the St. Olaf Department of Political Science.