UC Davis Election Experts

The following University of California, Davis, researchers are available to comment to media on topics presenting in the upcoming elections. From the history of the political process, to computer security, to conspiracy theories, UC Davis can provide expertise on a variety of issues facing voters. Check the UC Davis News and Information website for updates to this list.

Political races

A.G. Block, associate director of the UC Center Sacramento and founding director of the center’s public affairs journalism program, can comment broadly on races to be decided in the election. Block reported on California politics and elections for many years as editor of California Journal, and, more recently, as a columnist with Capitol Weekly. He is the co-editor and principal author of four editions of The California Political Almanac, as well as co-editor of six editions of the California Politics and Government Annual. Contact: A.G. Block, UC Center Sacramento, (916) 445-7300, agblock@ucdavis.edu.

Leadership and inconsistency

Kim Elsbach, associate dean and professor in the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, studies how organizations, their leaders and individuals acquire and maintain images, identities and reputations. She is the author of the book, Organizational Perception Management. Elsbach says, “People in Western society do not like inconsistency in their leaders. It’s what gets a lot of leaders tripped up. There is so much pressure on leaders to be consistent that it outweighs the need to make the right decision or to be accurate.” Contact: Kim Elsbach, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-0910, kdelsbach@ucdavis.edu.

History of electoral politics

Eric Rauchway, professor of history, can discuss presidential politics, primaries and the Electoral College; congressional politics, constitutional rules and party structure; and the role of international economics, globalization and wars in American history. He can also talk about economic and monetary policies, specifically comparisons to historical policies, especially the New Deal.

He has contributed to Slate and The American Prospect. He is the author of Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt’s America, The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction and Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America. Contact: Eric Rauchway, History, earauchway@ucdavis.edu.

Immigration detention, undocumented youth

Caitlin Patler, assistant professor of sociology, can discuss immigration detention policy, executive action on deferred action programs (DACA and DAPA), and the situation of undocumented youth and families. Dr. Patler’s research is informed by over 15 years of work in immigrants’ rights organizations focused on immigration detention, access to education for undocumented youth, and low-wage labor markets. She can also comment on such topics as the social costs of revoking temporary legal status, and the general social costs of non-citizenship. Contact: Caitlin Patler, Sociology, patler@ucdavis.edu

Conspiracy theories; roots of modern conservatism

Professor and history department chair Kathryn S. Olmsted has long investigated conspiracy theories, from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11, and many that have cropped up since, even during the primary elections. She authored Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford University Press, 2009).

In her recent research, she also has re-examined the labor disputes in Depression-era California that led California’s businessmen and media to create a new style of politics with corporate funding, intelligence gathering, professional campaign consultants and alliances between religious and economic conservatives. Her 2015 book is Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (New Press, $27.95, 336 pages). Contact: Kathryn Olmsted, History, (530) 752-7764, ksolmsted@ucdavis.edu.

Partisan politics and presidential elections

Robert Huckfeldt, distinguished professor of political science, is an expert on partisan politics. Huckfeldt is a scholar of public opinion, and participation and voting in national elections. Contact: Robert Huckfeldt, Political Science, rhuckfeldt@ucdavis.edu.

Election law and the Voting Rights Act

Law professor Christopher Elmendorf can talk about election law and the Voting Rights Act. His recent writings have focused on the roles that advisory bodies can play in fostering governmental accountability; judicial formulation; and the administration of doctrines to implement the right to vote. His work has been published in the New York University Law Review, the Duke Law Journal, and the Election Law Journal, among others. Contact: Chris Elmendorf, School of Law, (530) 752-5756, (415) 385-5781 (cell), cselmendorf@ucdavis.edu

American electoral process

Political science professor Walter Stone has written extensively on topics related to American national elections.  He has studied the presidential nomination process, the Perot movement and its effects on the two-party system, why candidates run for Congress, and voting and representation in congressional elections.  He is completing a book manuscript tentatively entitled Quality Control. The theme of the book is a challenge to skeptics who argue that voters are unable choose based on their interests because of the distorting effects of money, partisanship and incumbency.  The book presents new evidence showing that electorates do a good job selecting the highest quality candidates and promoting representation of their interests, given the choices they are offered. Contact: Walter J. Stone, Political Science, wstone@ucdavis.edu.

Racial and ethnic politics, Latino voting behavior

Brad Jones is a professor of political science whose research focuses on racial and ethnic politics including Latino voting behavior and Latino public opinion as well as voting behavior more generally. He is also an expert on immigration policy and public opinion regarding immigration.  Finally, he can speak to issues regarding polling and survey methodology. Contact: Bradford Jones, Political Science, bsjjones@ucdavis.edu.

Who votes?

Mindy Romero is a political sociologist and director of the California Civic Engagement Project, or CCEP, at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. She can discuss voter representation trends among Latinos, Asians, youth and women. She can also address voting rights and electoral systems, online voter registration and political party representation. 

The CCEP is a civic engagement research and outreach initiative for the state of California. A key focus of the CCEP’s research is to identify racial, ethnic and geographic disparities in voting. The CCEP has a policy brief series examining voter registration and election trends. Recent research includes that on the California and U.S. Latino vote that addresses how demographic change in the U.S. is impacting the nation’s political landscape. More information on these reports and an updated fact sheet on California's Primary Election from the CCEP. Contact: Mindy Romero, Center for Regional Change. (530) 665-3010, msromero@ucdavis.edu.

What influences voting? The effects of opinion polls, lawn signs and issue framing on political preferences

Research by Alison Ledgerwood, an associate professor of psychology and the principal investigator for the Attitudes and Group Identity Lab, suggests that neighbors’ lawn signs, public opinion polls and bumper stickers can all affect how people vote in an election — but timing matters. For instance, poll results will be most influential when an election is still far away, whereas a neighbor’s bumper sticker will have a bigger impact as an election draws closer. In other research, she finds that certain ways of talking about an issue or candidate have greater sticking power, so that even small choices in wording (like focusing on the success rate versus failure rate of a political policy) can have a lasting effect on voter opinions. Contact: Alison Ledgerwood, Psychology, aledgerwood@ucdavis.edu.

Electronic voting and computer security

Matt Bishop, professor of computer science at UC Davis and co-director of the Computer Security Lab, can discuss security issues around electronic voting systems. Bishop has participated in several reviews of electronic voting systems, including the RABA Study and the review of the systems used in the 2006 Florida election in Congressional District 13. He was a co-principal investigator for the California secretary of state’s Top to Bottom Review of certified voting machines in 2007. He was also a member of the Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board (California). The Computer Security Laboratory at UC Davis is recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a center of academic excellence. Bishop wrote the textbook Computer Security: Art and Science. Contact: Matt Bishop, Computer Science, (530) 752-8060, mabishop@ucdavis.edu.

Media Resources

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

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