Students Engaged in Studying Presidential Campaigns
Publication Date: 10/22/2012
For the recent presidential debates, Rhodes students have been gathering in the lobby of Burrow Hall, watching the candidates on-screen and tweeting live their reactions. Many also are participating in pre- and post-debate surveys as part of Political Science Professor Amy Jasperson’s research on campaign messages. These debate-watching events are hosted by Jasperson leading up to the national election on Nov. 6.
Jasperson joined the Rhodes faculty as chair of the Department of Political Science this year after 14 years at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After receiving tenure, she spent time in Washington, D.C., as a Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate working on telecommunications, foreign policy and defense issues. Jasperson’s research interests focus on political communication, mass media and public opinion.
In this election, Rhodes is one of 11 colleges and universities around the nation participating in a research project involving young voters’ responses to political messages through media.
“With each successive campaign, there are new and different ways of measuring the impact of political messages on voters,” says Jasperson. “We can examine questions like—are people’s attitudes being influenced by the debate itself, or by the way the press spins the debate? With all of the developing cutting-edge technology, it is a very interesting area for research.”
Political science students have already been exposed to the campaigns in a variety of ways. Faculty have been encouraging their students to attend the debate events, and some have been organizing their own activities. Recently, Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan online newsletter that provides an independent analysis of U.S. elections, spoke with Rhodes students about his predictions for this election. And in Jasperson’s Political Science 151 class, for example, students are completing a media analysis project in which they reflect upon one of the presidential debates and examine how the press shapes expectations of debate performance.
A student steering committee is in the process of planning an election night event open to all Rhodes students to be held in the Lynx Lair, the student lounge and snack bar. So far, Jasperson says she has been happy with the turnout at the debate events.
“Students really seem to be engaged,” says Jasperson. “What is interesting about events like this is that part of the whole experience is seeing it with friends and talking about what is going on. For an event like a political debate, studies have shown that young people especially get much of their information on the Internet and through their friends. That social aspect is important.”
(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Lucy Kellison ’13)
photo courtesy of Akvile Zakarauskaite