Voting results point to a changing electorate, according to panel

Political scientists and public policy experts at Penn State Harrisburg gathered on Nov. 7 to discuss the re-election of Barack Obama. Chief among the lessons learned from the election, they said, was that the face of the electorate in the United States is changing.

While polls reported a tightening race across the nation in the final days before the election, the contest came down to a few battleground states, according to the panelists. “It was a more targeted election than we’ve ever had in that there were only about nine states up for grabs,” said Jeremy Plant, professor of public policy. Obama created momentum by taking early contests including Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Obama’s ability to capture the vote of key groups proved pivotal to his victory. Obama took the youth vote, according to CNN exit polls garnering 60 percent of voters under 30, who made up a greater percentage of the electorate in 2012 than in 2008.

“In many of my town hall meetings and student meetings as an adjunct instructor, the old model was that young people have the power, but they didn’t vote,” said David Argall, instructor of political science and Pennsylvania state senator. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Obama also captured 55 percent of the female vote and 81 percent of the minority vote. “One of the most important lessons from this election is that we are a different country now,” said Plant. According to the Washington Post, the percentage of nonwhites grew from 20 percent of the electorate in 2000 to 28 percent in 2012.

Mark Singel, instructor of political science and public policy, and former Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and acting governor, suggested that diplomacy prevailed after a heated race. “We have undergone a relatively peaceful selection process in the face of strong opinions from across the ideological spectrum,” he said.

Matthew Woessner, associate professor of political science and public policy, said it seemed half of his students came to class pleased, the other half sullen, the day after the race. That the system worked successfully proved the collective victory, Woessner said. Although he voiced disappointment that Mitt Romney was defeated in the general election, Woessner argued that “the great triumph [for America] is that the will of the people shall prevail.” “This is a time to revel in the joys of democracy,” he said.

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Last Updated November 19, 2012