Paru Shah is an Associate Professor of Political Science, and the Director of graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is a Democrat.
Hi Paru, how do you assess the impact of the Corona-crisis on the upcoming elections?
Covid has expanded the opportunities to vote. Wisconsin created early voting and same day registration as ways for voters to minimize the Covid risks. Bu voting during the pandemic will still be hard.
What is the expected turnout?
Despite Covid the turnout will be huge. I expect an additional 15 to 20 percentage points higher than in 2016. Here in Wisconsin we will see the effects of a “get out the vote”-effort of the Democrats which started right after the 2016 election.
Is there concern about violence at the polls? Some reports insinuate this.
I don’t know, there is a concern here. Wisconsin is an open-carry state (i.e. you are allowed to carry a legally purchased fiream openly) . But a lot of polling stations are in schools where carrying weapons is banned. I have been a poll watcher, and most of the time things are pretty quiet. I think the talk about cheating and the posturing against it is more rhetoric than real. Usually it comes up from Illinois.
What outcome do you expect in Illinois?
Wisconsin is a tossup state but less so than for instance Pennsylvania. Trump has pulled his advertising here, also in Michigan. He has less money than Biden and must put his resources where he sees his best chances. I feel Biden is up 5 to 6 percentage points here.
Where does Biden gain votes compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016?
Trump could not enlarge his base which are white suburban males and non-college-educated whites. Biden is able to get those Obama voters which did not vote for Hillary. And a lot of non-voters or new voters. There is a lot of speculation about the suburban vote. Gender is a big factor here. Suburban women tend towards Biden this time.
What does “suburban vote” actually mean?
Suburbia made sense as a category 50 years ago. It is a code for race: White, better-off suburbians against poorer, non-white city people. Today there are plenty of suburbs with a majority of minority population and plenty of whites in cities. It is better to differentiate according to education levels, race and gender. The suburban white women who voted in their majority for Trump four years ago are switching. They have seen four years of evidence and are asking themselves: Is this the right guy for me? Most college-educated women are pro-abortion and pro-health care.
Mobilizing your supporters to go to the polls seems the big game now. Who wins?
There is concern on the side of the Democrats about voter registration. Democrats feel that Republicans have done a better job because they do it the old-fashioned way by approaching voters face to face. Democrats do not do this out of concern for the pandemic. I am a Democrat, and the only attempts my party makes to reach me is by e-mail or text message. We don’t know whether this works. We know from research that door-to-door mobilizing works.
Traveling through the country, I feel that the Trump supporters are more fired up. Am I wrong? Is there an enthusiam gap?
You see Trump’s rallies with a lot of enthusiasm, but you don’t see plenty of people enthusiastic for Biden. But there is no enthusiasm gap. It just seems so. Biden voters are committed.