The primary: Do we really know how it works?
By Hannah Dunbar
Tuesday marked the primary election date in Ohio where Governor John Kasich won the Republican vote, defeating Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders for the Democratic vote.
Kasich was the exception in Tuesday’s primary process as Trump won Missouri, Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina.
But as for the primary process itself, even though thousands of Americans voted and anxiously waited up for election results Tuesday night, how many are actually educated about how the primary works?
According to Robert Postic, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and chair of the social, behavioral, and justice sciences department, when it comes to the primary election system, most people are not knowledgeable at all. However, Postic said to an outside observer, the system is quite bizarre.
“To say the system is complicated, doesn’t even quite describe it,” said Postic.
The best description Postic has for the primary election system is idiosyncratic, meaning peculiar or unique. To provide some background on the primary election, Kevin Coleman, an analyst in elections through the Congressional Research Service, said there are generally two types of primaries: a preference primary and a direct election primary. According to Coleman, a preference primary allows a voter to mark his or her ballot for a presidential candidate whereas a direct election primary uses winner-take-all-rules. Coleman explains, in a direct election primary, the presidential candidate with the highest votes across the states wins the at-large debates.
Postic said the lack of knowledge of the primary system even extends to political professionals. During the nomination campaign in 2008, a story came out of the Clinton campaign regarding one of her political strategists, Mark Penn, Postic said.
“The story goes that Penn was counting on Clinton winning the California primary and getting all of those delegates,” said Postic.
In other words, it appeared that Penn thought the primary was a winner-take-all primary when it wasn’t said Postic.
“Democratic parties are proportional and have been for years,” said Postic. “But Penn didn’t seem to know that.”
Although most individuals seem uneducated on the primary election system, that does not seem to be the case for junior finance major, Jonah Schulz. Schulz recently participated in a student voter forum affiliated with the University of Findlay as a student Republican and he also has a brother who is currently running for senate.
“My family is very involved in politics so I’ve gotten a large dose of politics from an early age,” said Schulz.
Schulz said he tries to keep himself updated on politics on a daily basis. According to Schulz, most students he has come across on UF’s campus have either no knowledge of any political events including the primary or have heard severely false information from a social media source.
Megan Adams, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication, has experience working in the media covering political events. Adams worked two and a half years in Lima, Ohio at WLIO, a hometown station that delivers breaking news, weather, and sports. Adams said she thinks the local reporters in Ohio do a fair job of portraying both political parties.
“Local reporters aren’t as beholden to spin as much as the mass media outlets,” said Adams.
According to Adams, their job is to cover a community so they report based on the pulse of that community. However, Adams thinks they could do a better job of covering political processes and their repercussions.
“I think that information can get confusing,” said Adams.
Because local reporters are in better positions to build relationships with their audience, they are better equipped to explain political processes in context as they matter to their audience, according to Adams.
WLIO covered political events in a variety of ways Adams said. Adams and her colleagues covered planned and unplanned events and interviewed candidates on the campaign trail, they interviewed experts such as political science professors at local universities to help explain the political processes, and they also did man on the street interviews with citizens to ask who they were voting for and why.
One political event many media outlets will be covering this year is the Republican National Convention in July. This event will be important to many news stations and newspapers due to its significant location in Cleveland, Ohio. According to Kevin Coleman, the Republicans will meet from July 18-21. Coleman said the national party conventions have evolved over the past 50 years.
“The national party conventions now serve as the forum for officially ratifying the results of the primary season,” said Coleman.
Conventions are important media events since they launch each major party’s general election campaign, according to Coleman. The next upcoming important media event for the state of Ohio and the United States is the general election on Nov. 8, 2016.