“Umm… what just happened?” After the results of the 8th of November, it was only natural for our first PA Workshop to be on the debates regarding the United States’ Presidential election. We decided to prepare an approximately 30 minutes long interactive workshop about the election for our PA division meeting on the 16th November.
To begin with, we went through the technical knowledge regarding the election. While democracy is thought to have originated in the West and the USA is widely regarded as one of its strongest advocates, it may be surprising to those who are not familiar with the USA presidential election system that a popular vote majority does not always produce the winner. Instead, a unique system called Electoral College is in charge. As we researched the topic, various statistics surprised us, and we could see that most of our audience shared our thoughts throughout the presentation.
Then, we had an interactive quiz to test our fellow PA subcommittees of their knowledge regarding the policies by which Trump and Clinton stood. This covered a range of topics, ranging from tax systems to the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP). Not surprisingly, the results of this exercise reflected the amount of emphasis each campaign put on its various policies; for example, more members were familiar with Trump or Clinton’s view on immigration as opposed to death penalties. Also, the ambiguity regarding the differences in specific issues suggested that Trump and Clinton are not as different as people instinctively feel they are. For example, both Trump and Clinton oppose the North-American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Put forth by Bill Clinton, NAFTA was assumed by some to be defended by Hillary Clinton. However, she has spoken to denounce the plan as “not liv[ing] up to its promises” on multiple occasions. In addition, her negative stance on the TPP seems to indicate that in terms of international trade (which was one of the key elements in the 2016 election), she resonates moderately with Trump.
Following this policy-oriented outlook, we turned the workshop to a more demographic and statistical focus. An initial analysis by the New York Times suggests that of those who voted for Obama switched to vote for Trump, a large percentage were citizens in the five north-eastern swing states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio). Colloquially, these states are coined the “Rust-Belt States (RBS)”, supposedly denoting the deserted factories in the once booming industrious zone that is now facing economic decline and loss of population. Naturally, our point of inquiry targeted RBS with an emphasis on racial diversity and level of education. Our method of study came in three stages. First, we observed the exit poll results in 2016. Second, to provide a more dynamic prospect, we cross-examined the 2016 data with that of previous elections. Finally, contextualizing the national data by comparing them with RBS demographics based on census. In order to make numbers more lucid and presentable, we used diagrams, graphs and maps as much as possible. This provided us with some insights. For example, nationally, a white voter with below college education was far more likely to vote for Trump. In RBS, the demographic maps indicate they have some of the lowest racial diversity in the US and percentage with college education. With this demographic phenomena and further research in mind, one may be able to draw more in-depth conclusions.
At the end, we left an open discussion for policies we envisage and reasons that led to the unexpected result. During this session, it was highly encouraging to us that we received positive feedbacks, highlightening that we’re able to maintain the workshop informative while interactive. We believe that more of such workshops in the future would benefit both the participants and the person-in-charge.