Galesburg citizens’ questions and concerns about the upcoming election were answered this past Wednesday by a five-professor panel at the Galesburg Public Library.
Titled “Beyond the Sound Bites: Issues in an Election Year,” it was organized by library staff in conjunction with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Katherine Adelsburger with the aim of connecting the curious electorate with knowledgeable scholars.
Professors on the panel in addition to Adelsburger included Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini, Associate Professor of Economics Carol Scotton, Associate Professor of History Catherine Denial and Instructor of Journalism David Amor.
Library staff handed out cards for audience members to write questions to be answered by the panel, which focused mainly on the growing role of social media in the election, climate change and the electoral system itself.
Amor began with a question on Twitter feeds and the debates, noting that “there seems to be an echo chamber effect” within the political arena of social media. He also discussed social media’s effects on the popular political debate, remarking it seems that “the speed that things take precedence and importance and fade from view is accelerating.”
Civettini, who was recently named as one of “25 Poli Sci Professors You Should Follow This Election Year” by OnlineUniversities.com, mentioned that though there were 6.5 million tweets over the 90 minutes of the third presidential debate, it’s difficult “grappling with what that means for public opinion.”
Another citizen’s question of whether negative advertising could produce a boomerang effect was answered with a firm “no,” as Civettini explained that there has only been one academic paper with this finding and that it had been conducted with “imperfect research methods.”
The discussion turned to the environment as Adelsburger replied to a question by a curious Galesburg resident as to the “truth” of global warming, confirming that “97 percent of scientists believe it is mainly due to human activity.”
On why the issue has not been brought up at the debates, Amor commented that “it is easier for us to believe things that fit into our immediate concerns,” while Scotton referenced the imperative for a green economy, saying “those are the new jobs we need.”
Laughter rippled through the room when a citizen’s question of whether “we’ll ever get over Illinois’ corruption?” was answered by Civettini pointing out that Illinois was in the lower half of the nation in corruption per capita. The worst in the nation is Louisiana, he said, and most corruption can be tackled by better reporting.
Civettini then answered another question on the reason for the electoral college’s existence by explaining the political history of the thirteen colonies and that it was largely a result of the “inability of Madison to convince smaller states to accept their population disparity.”
Amor then fielded audience concerns about the integrity of modern-day journalism, noting that while there was no “golden age” of journalism to hearken back to, there has been a recent “breakdown between objectivity and the editor.”
Final questions on the “domination of right-wing talk-shows,” were answered with a political history of the 1980s, in which it was explained that Republicans looking to “break into the Democratic bloc of male day laborers” used the deregulation of AM radio to buy up stations across the country.