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WFU professors provide post-election comments

By Jacob McConnico
November 19, 2004

EXIT POLLS REVEAL IMPORTANT SHIFTS IN VOTER BEHAVIOR — The geographical divide between "red" and "blue" states has gotten most of the press in the wake of the 2004 presidential election, but John Dinan, Zachary T. Smith Associate Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest University, says there are several other interesting trends revealed by exit polls taken during the election. Republicans narrowed the traditional gender gap, with George W. Bush losing among women by only three percentage points this year as opposed to 11 percentage points in 2000, Dinan said. In addition, Republicans made inroads among the rapidly growing number of Hispanic voters, with Bush increasing his share of that vote from 35 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2004. The 2004 election also revealed significant trends in the relationship between religion and voting behavior. "Of particular interest is the direct relationship between frequency of church attendance and support for Republicans, in a way that rivals the long-established relationship between income level and Republican support," Dinan said.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK GOOD FOR NEXT FOUR YEARS — The recession has ended and the economy is doing fairly well at this point, says Jac Heckelman, associate professor of economics and McCulloch Family Fellow at Wake Forest University. "Without any major surprises in the next few years, unemployment should continue to slowly decline and growth should continue to make progress," Heckelman said. In addition, the Bush administration tax cuts that are set to expire could likely be made permanent, he said, thanks to Republican gains in both the House and Senate. Heckelman can comment on the connections between elections and the economy and has published papers concerning voter turnout and political business cycles. He can also provide historical election analysis.

Contact: Maggie Barrett, or 336-758-5237.

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: WHERE DOES IT GO FROM HERE? — National Democrats might want to look at the party's appeal in North Carolina and in some other Southern states as they evaluate their next steps in preparing for the national elections of 2006 and 2008, says Jack Fleer, professor emeritus of political science at Wake Forest University and author of the book "North Carolina Politics." "In this state for the past four elections, moderate Democrats have been elected governor while the state electorate gave substantial majorities to Republican presidential candidates in three of the years (not 1992)," Fleer said. "This and other Southern states might provide some insights for how to broaden the appeal of Democratic candidates for various offices."

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.

RECENT JOB LOSS — WHAT'S REALLY TO BLAME AND HOW TO FIX IT — Despite what seems to be an exodus of manufacturing and information technology jobs, so-called "outsourcing" is not the primary cause of recent job loss in the United States, says Jac Heckelman, associate professor of economics and McCulloch Family Fellow at Wake Forest University. Rather, technology is to blame, specifically, the lagging technological skills of the U.S. workforce. "We have moved historically from agrarian to manufacturing to service," Heckelman said. "This is a perfectly natural progression and as the world's richest nation, we are leading the way. We still employ a great deal in manufacturing and technology — the slow transition away from this is not a problem." What needs to happen to help displaced workers find jobs? "The workforce needs to develop new skills to keep pace with technology," Heckelman said. "Keeping education and job training costs down — for example, through community colleges — will help ease the transition costs.

Contact: Maggie Barrett, or 336-758-5237.

IMPACT OF MORAL ISSUES ON 2004 ELECTION REMAIN UNCLEAR — Jack Fleer, professor emeritus of political science at Wake Forest University and a Southern politics expert, says that although moral issues were very important during the 2004 presidential election, it is still not clear what voters had on their minds when answering exit poll questions about the broad subject. "There are moral dimensions to economic injustice, intolerance, use of force in international relations and other areas beyond the highly publicized issues in 2004 of abortion and same sex marriages," Fleer said. "I believe some voters might either have that in mind when they say such issues are important or would recognize and respond to such moral appeals if they were given greater attention in campaign appeals. There is evidence that war and terrorism were equally important to moral issues in 2004."

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.

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