Post-Election Analysis

An essay by USF’s Susan MacManus is in a new collection examining the 2012 presidential election: Barack Obama and the New America.

By Vickie Chachere

USF News                             

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 22, 2012) – University of South Florida Distinguished Professor of Political Science Susan MacManus’ take on the 2012 election and its impact on future campaigns is a featured chapter in one of the first new books analyzing the contentious election, Barack Obama and the New America: The 2012 Election and the Changing Face of Politics.

The compilation of essays from prominent political scientists and top journalists was edited by University of Virginia’s Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato. The book examines the many facets of the election and what President Obama’s path to victory might signal for future elections. Sabato, one of the nation’s most prominent political scientists, says the collection “offers insight that goes beyond the headlines, and dives into the underlying forces and shifts that drove the election from its earliest developments to its dramatic conclusion.”

MacManus, whose expertise on the hotly contested I-4 Corridor in Florida and generational politics has propelled her to become one of the nation’s most visible political scientists, writes on the major events and voter mobilization activities of the 2012 election, confronting the questions of what went right and wrong, and how that might affect future campaigns.

 

“Perhaps more than in any presidential campaign in recent history, Election 2012 elicited major debates about how future campaigns should be run in an era of constantly changing technology affecting candidates’ communication with voters and in a country experiencing major demographic shifts that are yielding a deepening generational political divide (young—Democratic; old—Republican),” writes MacManus in collaboration with research associate David J. Bonanza and research assistant Ashleigh Powers.

The questions arising out of the 2012 contest include: the relative effectiveness of various voter mobilization efforts that occurred right up through Election Day; election advertising and even the effectiveness of staging party nominating conventions in hotly contested political grounds (neither the Republicans nor the Democrats won the states where their conventions were held).

MacManus writes that as the campaigns began winding down, the issues of election reform heated up due to long lines at polling places, equipment failures and claims of voter suppression.

Her analysis finds that in the end, the Obama campaign was more effective at reaching the late deciders - mostly young minorities and women voters.

“Whether it was a better message, last-minute candidate visits, persuasive ads, or personal contacts by the Obama campaign’s “embedded community organizers,” turnout among the traditional late decider groups went up in 2012—and broke for the President,” MacManus writes.

Other questions left for the race ahead include:

 

·         When should the bulk of TV ads be aired? Early or later in the campaign? The Obama campaign spent ad money early when the airwaves were less congested, whereas Romney saved more to spend at the end of the campaign.

 

·         Is spending on TV ads still more effective than spending on online ads? MacManus said that is an issue that remains unresolved.

 

·         How much does over-saturation of TV ads turn off voters from an election all together? “The lower voter turnout rate in 2012 on the heels of the most massive ever TV ad campaign will undoubtedly raise this question. So, too, will studies concluding that the vast sums of money spent on TV ads in 2012 mostly canceled out each other,” she writes.

 

·         How much social media communication with potential supporters should be focused on fund-raising? MacManus argues that in 2012, young voters were turned off by the candidates’ fixation on using social media to “dial for dollars” rather than focusing on their stands on important issues.

 

Barack Obama and the New America is available in both print and digital format. It is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 

Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.