UVU Political Science Professor Conducts Election Survey

UVU Political Science Professor Conducts Election Survey

Presidential election years are always interesting —  they bring up a great deal of emotion and present the opportunity for change. For Jay DeSart, chair of the history and political science department, election years represent an opportunity for research. Thanks to a Grant for Engaged Learning (GEL) from the UVU Office of Engaged Learning, DeSart will be conducting a survey in connection with the 2020 presidential election. This survey will study the attitudes of anti-intellectualism and how they correlate to the way people vote during the election. 

“I’ve found that there’s a real lack of understanding of any research about the impact of anti-intellectualism on political attitudes and behavior in the political science literature,” DeSart said. “Historian Richard Hofstadter published a Pulitzer Prize-winning book in 1963 titled Anti-Intellectualism in American Life in which he traced the historical roots of anti-intellectualism in American culture. I felt we were witnessing clear evidence of what Hofstadter wrote about over 50 years ago, but there had been very little effort to measure the extent to which individuals actually held those beliefs and to determine how much it actually affected their political behavior. It seemed like fertile ground for research, and a perfect opportunity to get students involved and give them real, hands-on experience in conducting survey research.”

Students from a few upper-division political science courses will help to develop, administer, and evaluate the election survey, which will be administered in October to a nationwide sample via Qualtrics.

This isn’t the first time DeSart has studied presidential elections — though the opportunity to do so only comes around every four years. He says that, in some ways, this study is a continuation of research he started during the last presidential election. That early work yielded a paper that was presented at the Western Political Science Association Conference in 2017. DeSart hopes that this study will be published in political science journals and presented at national or international conferences — pending the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions.  

“I am very grateful to the Office of Engaged Learning for making [research like this] possible through the GEL Grant program, and I'm really excited to give our students this unique opportunity to be involved,” he said.



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