Friday, April 29, 2016 • tacomaweekly.com • Section A • Page 7
PoPulAr PreSidentiAl election lecture SerieS AddS bonuS night By Karen Fleur Tofti-Tufarelli Special to Tacoma Weekly
While the current presidential election cycle might seem like the wildest ever – and the lowest of the low with respect to personal insults – a popular University of Puget Sound lecture series gives the historical perspective. In the most recent lecture, for instance, presenter Michael E. Purdy, M.A., presidential historian and founder/owner of the website www.presidentialhistory.com, compiled a list of insults lobbed in previous contests, including Dwight Eisenhower calling Harry Truman a “congenital liar.” The free lecture series, "Who Will Win the White House?" attracted an overflow crowd of one hundred and eighty people to each of the first two lectures, where people were sitting in the aisles and standing, according to Purdy. The series’ popularity has led to the addition of a ”bonus” night – June 7, the date of the last primaries, Purdy said. In addition to the lecture that will include a discussion of potential vice-presidential picks, audience members can watch primary results as they come in. The series had originally been slated to conclude with the April 28 lecture. By June 7, Purdy said, “we will know whether we will be moving into a brokered or contested convention, or whether Donald Trump will win on the first ballot.” Audience questions to the experts – Purdy as well as Michael Artime, Ph.D., visiting instructor in Communication Studies at UPS, and adjunct Political Science instructor at Tacoma Community College – have been as perspicacious as the lectures themselves. One young woman asked why the two political experts said that Bernie Sanders would not be able to win the 68 percent of remaining delegates he needs for the nomination. Another question involved alleged voter discrepancies in the Arizona primary that are inspiring a lawsuit. A young man observed that Canada regulates at least some of its polling, whereas there is no regulation in the U.S., and asked about the negative effects on democracy of requiring threshold poll numbers for candidates to compete on the main– as opposed to the “undercard” – debate stage. Purdy and Artime made a recent appearance on KBTC’s “Northwest Now,” and Purdy has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and other media outlets. He has been immersed in presidential politics since he was eight years old.
PHOTO BY KAREN FLEUR TOFTI-TUFARELLI
PoliticAl WAtchdogS. Mike Purdy, left, and Michael Artime relax at
UPS before their popular lecture series begins. Due to the strong audience turnout, a “bonus” lecture has been added for June 7.
That was when his father brought home an engraving of the U.S. presidents, which Purdy memorized, then “read voraciously all the presidential biographies in the school library that I could get my hands on...and I’ve done that my whole life.” Growing up in Princeton, NJ – “just rich in early American history,” Purdy says – every weekend his father took him to historical sites or on tours, including the point where Washington crossed the Delaware, the location of Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, as well as Princeton’s Naussau Hall, and the city of Princeton itself, which at one point was the capitol of the U.S., Purdy says, “so I could see history right there.” The April 14 lecture discussed the different types of polls, how poll wording can influence results, as well as more modern innovations that attempt to make sense of the variety of polls that exist. Artime explained that the Real Clear Politics average, often referred to in the news, is a poll aggregator that averages several polls to arrive at a more comprehensible result. However, he said, another political polling site called 538.com, founded by statistician Nate Silver,- went one step further. Silver, Artime said, “decided that (538. com) wasn’t going to just average all polls together as if all polls were equal.... Polls that have a history of accuracy are going to be weighted more heavily.” Artime said that though Silver correctly predicted 2008 Presidential election results
out 10 million cards and received 2.4 million responses back. The poll prediction was whoppingly off-kilter: it had Landon beating F.D.R. 57 percent to 43 percent, when in fact F.D.R. beat Landon 61 percent to 36 percent. The debacle occurred in part because those polled could afford magazine subscriptions, telephones, and automobiles; they were therefore wealthier at the time than the average Joe. The Literary Digest, said Purdy, went bankrupt a year later. Purdy and Artime hit upon the idea for the lecture series over dinner (the two already knew each other) in the summer of 2015, when Purdy suggested that Artime present lectures as a good adjunct to his academic career. Artime then suggested that the two team up, with Purdy giving historical perspective. An audience member asked Purdy if there had ever been a candidate like Trump. Purdy said (after laughter from around the room had subsided) that in the 1912 election, Teddy Roosevelt of the Bull Moose Party also led a personality-driven campaign, although Roosevelt had a number of policy positions. The Progressive Bull Moose party didn’t survive after Roosevelt, Purdy said. “That tends to be what happens with third parties.” Audience member Louis Spain Jr. said that he attended the series because the upcoming election is one of the most important in our lifetime, with “international and national implications.” Spain has been an active political participant with several candidates of both parties. Audience members Jean Gillmer and Susan Bidenschink, members of the League of Women Voters, are both “political junkies,” said Bidenschink, “so we really get into this stuff.” The election series is co-sponsored by the University of Puget Sound Communication Studies Department and the Department of Politics and Government.
in 49 states (and 2012 results in all 50), he consistently missed the Trump phenomenon. Artime wrote his dissertation, “The Internet and Politics,” at the University of Missouri, St. Louis; the dissertation is primarily a study of Internet article comment sections. Artime distributed political articles to people with and without comment sections: “People ended up feeling that the content they received was more hostile if they had a comment section attached to the article,” he said. One of the important factors in weighing the polls on 538.com, Artime said, is whether the pollsters call cell phones: the more accurate polls do. As Purdy had mentioned previously, 65 percent of those, for instance, in the age 20-29 demographic have only a cell phone, not a land line. Poll prediction upsets throughout the years were also chronicled in the lecture. As advanced as our present-day technology has become, Purdy showed how the surprise results in the 2016 Michigan Democratic primary – where Sen. Bernie Sanders soundly beat Sec. Hillary Clinton despite polls to the contrary – still ranks Full Service Locksmiths Since 1978 among large polling upsets Chip Keys • Remotes even if it doesn’t quite compare, for instance, with the Transponder Keys highly erroneous 1936 Literary Digest poll. In that poll measuring Mon-Fri: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. the contest between Alfred Open During Festival / Sun: Closed Landon and Franklin Delano 5424 S Tacoma Way Roosevelt -- the digest sent www.SecurityRus.com
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