Kent State Scholars Team up with Bournemouth University to Create Election Project
Since 2015, Bournemouth University’s Center for Health and Media Research has conducted an election analysis, including rapid responses and contributions from several leading U.S. and international academics.
Danielle Sarver Coombs, Ph.D., professor in the School of Media and Journalism at Kent State University, expressed that the report is unique, as it is a snap analysis of what happened in these elections and includes insight from academics with solid credentials.
“The analysis is grounded in these academics’ expertise and knowledge, so it is really brilliant and insightful work,” Coombs said. “I think it provides a unique opportunity for experts to share their insights on major issues and events happening during the campaign season and talk about why it matters and what it means.”
The first election report covered the 2015 general election in England. Following that were the 2016 E-Referendum and 2016 U.S. presidential election, the 2017 and 2019 general election in the U.K., and now, the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Although this is the second time Bournemouth has analyzed a U.S. election, it is the first time Bournemouth invited American editors to participate in the analysis.
“Bournemouth wanted to get U.S. editors on board, so they invited Filippo Trevisan, a professor at American University, and me to be editors this year,” Coombs said. “With that, we have been able to center Ohio and Ohio scholars, which is neat because we have a strong Kent State presence in this, which is great for our university and the quality of work.”
Over 100 scholars worldwide were invited to participate in the election analysis, including several Kent State affiliates.
David E. Silva, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies and the School of Emerging Media and Technology at Kent State, was invited by Coombs to contribute to the project.
“My piece is in the ‘Democracy in crisis’ section (section seven) and covers the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories around the legitimacy of the election and the vote-counting process,” Silva said.
Silva described the analysis as a broad effort to engage with the public and build awareness about the American political process. He hopes that the study can help those who read it better make sense of what was, to many, a chaotic and confusing political event.
All contributors expressed that working on the project was exciting yet challenging because of how soon the analysis was set to be published after the election.
“Dr. Coombs and the other editors on this project asked contributors to provide brief election analyses that would fit on a single page to be published within 10-days of the election results,” said Michael Beam, Ph.D., director of the School of Emerging Media and Technology at Kent State. “Everyone involved in the project had to work very quickly and efficiently, which is atypical in academic publishing.”
Beam’s contribution discussed the relationships between social media, partisan media ecosystems, political candidates and partisan polarization. Although the project was demanding, Beam expressed he was happy to be part of a thorough collection that includes several authors and contributions he admires.
Ryan Claassen, professor in the Department of Political Science at Kent State, assessed evangelicals’ political behavior in the election analysis.
Claassen also expressed that the project’s most challenging aspect was the deadline, especially considering it remained unclear who won the election even as the deadline loomed.
“There are several questions that remain, regarding the reasons Biden won, but also the reasons the ‘blue wave’ that many expected didn’t materialize,” Claassen said. “This project identifies important questions and begins to help unravel the reasons.”
Silva expressed that although this report is done, the work on these topics will undoubtedly continue.
“This report is a snapshot of right now, and that picture may change over the next week, month, or even next few years,” Silva said.
The public response has been overwhelmingly positive since the analysis was published.
“Twitter is going crazy in our world. And political, academic Twitter has been really positive because this is so unusual compared to what we typically do,” Coombs said. “I think that people see this as a potential model for how we get a scholarship that is more tied to having an impact outside of academic audiences and bringing new authors to the table.”
Coombs hopes that this analysis can help to bridge the gap between academic work and public knowledge, noting that the work is written for a broad audience.
“I am very interested in public knowledge and ensuring that the work we do can be presented and understood by public discourse,” Coombs said. “These are really accessible pieces that are written in ways where any interested party can read it and understand it. My hope is that when we keep doing this, we get more and more journalists following these projects, and we find experts who are good at translating the academies into user-friendly language so we are getting that thoughtful analysis out into the public.”
To access the U.S. Election Analysis 2020, visit https://www.electionanalysis.ws/us/.