Political science professor Conor Dowling discussed the results of the 2020 presidential election and what the next four years will mean for college-aged students at the third and final Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors Convocation on Tuesday.
Dowling said the election made him remember his experience voting in the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. He said that he believes that there has been an “erosion of norms” over the past 20 years since that election. According to him, American society has grown used to interference in the justice department, and Dowling thinks U.S. citizens need a reminder that elections are important for a democratic society.
“I think elections are an opportune time to reflect on our role as citizens, what it means to contribute to the public good and what it means to be driven to find solutions to society’s most pressing problems,” Dowling said.
Dowling shared statistics on the percentage of participating voters aged 18 to 29 years old in this year’s election compared to the 2016 election, and voter turnout for this age group increased by approximately 5% in 2020. Dowling said this uptick impacted the general turnout rates, and in part, young voters participating made the election so close.
He also noted that there are now more women in Congress than ever before.
“It is an important trend to keep an eye on when it comes to thinking about representation,” Dowling said.
Dowling pointedly said he was not including recounts or continued legal concerns in his presentation.
“I think another key question that’s come out of this election is whether there should be some more federal oversight, or just more generally,” Dowling said.
One audience member asked Dowling if he thought the trend of blue-ticket voting will continue for young voters, or if their votes will switch as they age.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that it portends a sort of a shift because we do tend to see some more conservative voting as people age, but it could be sort of a shift in the market,” Dowling said.
Another audience member asked how likely it is that the electoral college will remain in place. Despite close elections in recent years, Dowling believes that there will be “some time” before the electoral college is reformed.
“I think we’ll see more attention given to the national popular vote, but I’d be hard pressed to think it’s going to happen,” Dowling said.
Dowling was the final speaker that the honors college will host this semester.