ASU professors bring election day into the classroom

Leading up to the midterms, professors intertwine course material with current political events

Political science professors and lecturers at ASU have been talking about the midterms for weeks leading up to Tuesday's elections. In fact, some American government and politics professors planned their class schedule at the beginning of the year to have this week be the week they discuss midterm-related subjects.

Richard Herrera, associate director and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, said he planned his American government and politics class schedule around the midterms.  

“I set up the class so that this week, in particular, we’re talking campaigns and elections,” Herrera said. “We’ve been talking about different races, and we talked about the Senate race in Arizona (and other) local Arizona races.”

Gina Woodall, senior lecturer in the School of Politics and Global Studies, said in her American government and politics class, they've talked about “everything” related to the midterms.

Hererra and Woodall said they noticed an increase in enthusiasm among students leading up to this year’s elections compared to previous years.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of U.S. adults are “more enthusiastic” about voting than normal this year. Enthusiasm was higher these numbers only once and that was after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, states the poll.

Herrera said that this year specifically, students seem to be more knowledgeable on political issues.

“I think part of that is, whenever there’s an election going on, a lot of political information is just freely available,” Herrera said. “There’s a lot more groups on campus who are trying to get people to vote.”

Herrera also said students have gone out of their way to talk to him about political topics related to this year’s midterms.

“A student came up to me today after class and was like, 'I got this on my dorm (door), and it’s about voting stuff, but it kind of looks like maybe it’s not objective. It’s kind of biased,'” Herrera said.

Woodall said she noticed the same increase in enthusiasm among her students.

“They just seem more engaged,” Woodall said. “They are asking more pertinent questions and just seem more excited.”

Valerie Hoekstra, associate professor for the School of Politics and Global Studies, said students in her constitutional law class would come up to her before class this semester and discuss the implications of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. 

“The Kavanaugh confirmation was such a salient part of the last couple of months and a critical part of how and why people are voting and who they are voting for,” Hoekstra said. “We always talked about it and what was going on, because even though we met three days a week, it seemed like every time we met there was something new going on.”

Hoekstra added that the students in her class are on top of voting.

“I asked them the other day, 'How many of you have already voted,'” Hoekstra said. “I think almost all of them raised their hand.”

Hoekstra said it's rare for students to pay this much attention to lower-level races, including retainment of state judges, on the Arizona ballot. 

“There were a handful of student who said (they) read the voter information pamphlet that talked about the performance evaluations of the judges,” Hoekstra said. “ They seem highly motivated. They did two years ago as well, but they seemed kind of discouraged …This time they seem a little bit more motivated.”


Reach the reporter at mzhao49@asu.edu and follow @michelle_zhao23 on Twitter. 

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