UB experts weigh in on the election

U B experts Antoine Yoshinaka, James Battista and Brian Wolfe sharing their thoughts with media.

From left: Faculty members Antoine Yoshinaka, James Battista and Brian Wolfe offer their insights on the election at a media briefing in Crofts Hall. Credit: John DellaContrada

Release Date: November 10, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The morning after the election, three University at Buffalo faculty members shared their insights on the 2016 presidential election — weighing in on the inaccuracy of the polls, voter support and what a Donald Trump presidency might look like — during an informal question-and-answer session in Crofts Hall.

One big question on many people’s minds since Tuesday has been: How did Donald Trump win the election when the pre-election public opinion polls predicted Hillary Clinton would be the next president?

James Battista, PhD, and Antoine Yoshinaka, PhD, both associate professors of political science, argued that the polls overestimated the amount of support for Clinton, making Trump’s win an unexpected one.

“The turnout among rural [voters] and whites was a lot higher than expected and those people were more strongly for Trump than people expected,” Battista said.

Yoshinaka noted that all the polls suggested that “there was no way Trump would be able to carry all of the states [Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio], and yet he did.”

These inaccurate predictions have raised questions regarding the polling system itself and whether it should be changed.

“Pollsters have an incentive to be the first ones to have numbers to feed the media. The question is, can they improve in their craft,” Yoshinaka said.

“There is such an appetite for numbers and for horserace coverage and immediacy. There is something going on that the pollsters did not pick up on and that has a lot to do with the dissatisfaction of a lot of voters,” he said. “It’s going to take some real introspection to figure out what went wrong.”

Yoshinaka said Trump’s views on trade helped him get ahead and gain support from union voters.

“Shifting the discussion toward trade and protectionism, which is not the standard position of the Republican Party, was probably one of the best decisions he made,” he said. “Trump this time around was able to get working class voters to show up and vote for him, which in some ways is turning the clock back to the Reagan years.”  

In discussing Clinton’s lack of support among voters, including African-Americans, Battista said it all comes down to identity.

“Identities matter when talking about presidential elections,” he said. “People no longer look into issues, but look at whether candidates can be trusted with their power. They ask, ‘Are you like me? Do you seem like me? Do I trust you?’”  

As for how the results of the election will affect the economy, Brian Wolfe, PhD, assistant professor of finance, said nothing is certain.

“Last night we hit a circuit breaker. That doesn’t happen often,” he said. “The markets today are flat. It’s kind of an unpredictable result and that is what we are seeing play out.”

Looking at the next four years, the professors are not sure if Trump will stick to the conciliatory tone he struck in his victory speech. It all comes down to who he appoints for important positions in government, they said.

“[Trump’s] actions are going to speak louder than his words,” Yoshinaka said. “I suspect that a lot of what he said during his campaign are not things that he is intent on trying to enact. Can he bring everyone together? Sure. Will he? We don’t know. We’ll find out.”

Yoshinaka also said that with the Republican Party winning a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the pro-choice movement might have a difficult time in the upcoming years.

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