UNL political experts: What's next after Super Tuesday?

UNL political experts: What's next after Super Tuesday?
Primary results from 12 states mark a turning point in this year's presidential races

Twelve states will hold presidential primaries or caucuses March 1, so-called Super Tuesday. With about half the delegates needed for each party’s nomination at stake, Super Tuesday could well mark a turning point in the campaign.

Observers say this group of primaries could establish Donald Trump, who had won three of four Republican primaries or caucuses before Super Tuesday, as the GOP’s “runaway favorite.” For Democrats, it could be a final test of whether Bernie Sanders can remain within striking distance of Hillary Clinton, who came away with a big win in the Feb. 27 South Carolina primary.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln experts can help analyze the road forward from Super Tuesday to the nominating conventions in late July. Among other topics, they can offer perspectives on voter fatigue, campaign psychology, scandal and gender roles in the 2016 presidential race.

Brandon Bosch is a political scientist and sociologist who teaches upper-level courses on political communication, political analysis, and the sociology of mass media.

Clinton has been a subject in his classes this year, because her 2008 bid for the presidency gives students a chance to compare and contrast her 2016 strategies and messaging.

A favorite topic is how gender influences public response to Clinton and how it shapes her campaign strategy.

“She’s been making her image a little softer and more grandmotherly, but she still has to stress her policy credentials and that she can be tough,” Bosch said. “Women candidates have to sell that more than the men do.”

Dona-Gene Barton, an associate professor of political science, is conducting research on the 2016 campaigns, examining how voter fatigue influences voters’ decisions. Her past studies have found that voters have shorter political attention spans than previously believed. Old information about a candidate’s policy positions is quickly supplanted by new information, while information about a candidate’s character is remembered better than information about policy stances.

Barton also studies how candidate impropriety and scandal affect voter decision making.

“To say that this is shaping up to be an interesting presidential race would be an understatement,” Barton said. “Certainly, Donald Trump’s candidacy and success continues to cause head-scratching among pundits and academics.”

She proposes that part of Trump’s popularity and success thus far arises from his ability to bombard voters with new information.

Ingrid Haas, an assistant professor of political science with a courtesy appointment in psychology, is watching how candidates capitalize on voter emotions.

“We’ll have a much clearer picture of what’s going to happen after Super Tuesday,” she said. “I think one of the interesting trends has been the push toward populist, anti-establishment viewpoints on both sides – support for Trump on the right and Sanders on the left. Both sides have improved their messaging and I think are increasingly aware of relevant behavioral research on how emotion influences opinions and voter turnout.”

Brandon Bosch can be reached at bbosch2@unl.edu or 402-472-6069

Dona-Gene Barton can be reached at dbarton4@unl.edu or 402-472-5994

Ingrid Haas can be reached at ihaas2@unl.edu or 402-472-2173