On Election Eve, alumni panel forecasts presidential race results


Courtesy of Nikolas Emack-Bazelais.

This month, Emerson Polling Society has surveyed marijuana opinions nationwide.

By Camilo Fonseca, Editor-at-large

A panel of Emerson faculty and alumni gathered at the final “Road to the White House” event Monday to discuss their insights and predictions for the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

Director of Emerson Polling Spencer Kimball hosted the event on Zoom, in partnership with the School of Communication. The conclusion of a four-part series beginning on Aug. 11, the panel consisted of several recognized political analysts, including Susan Del Percio ‘90, a consultant for MSNBC and the Lincoln Project; Peter Loge ‘87, an associate professor at George Washington University; and Emerson Journalist-in-Residence Cheryl Jackson. They debated the different potential outcomes and implications that will be seen in mere hours, when polling sites open across the country.

Kimball kicked off the evening with an audience poll, asking when the audience believed the results of the election would be determined—a question raised repeatedly in recent weeks. 

Del Percio, who previously served as an advisor to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, predicted the results would be known by Election Night, citing the possibility of outright Biden victories in battleground states like Georgia, Florida, and Arizona. Only 15 percent of audience members agreed with her assessment, aligning with the 17 percent reported by a Politico/Morning Consult national poll the same day.

Both Jackson and Loge were “less optimistic” about the prospect of timely results. Loge, a former Obama administration official, noted it was important for the electorate not to rely too heavily on early media projections. 

“The media and a lot of Republican leadership have a huge responsibility to keep reminding voters that the election is over when the counting stops,” Loge said. “That’s what’s going to decide it.”

The panel then turned to the “race to 270,” focusing on several key battleground states necessary for an Electoral College victory. Though its weekend polls predicted a Biden victory in 2020, Emerson Polling also predicted an electoral landslide—323 to 215—for Hillary Clinton four years ago.

“Obviously, 2016 has taught us that anything can happen,” Kimball said.

Several times, the panelists highlighted a predicted massive increase in voter turnout, particularly among young adults. Kimball estimated that there were close to 23 million new voters, dwarfing his initial forecasts of 13 million.

“Young voters are so enthusiastic right now about voting,” Jackson said during the panel. “Students—of all races—are on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement and some of the other movements going on.”

Kimball closed the discussion with a question asking how the victor would—or could—encourage unity in a country in the throes of such political division.

“We’re fractured now, and there will be a further fracture,” Jackson said. “But it is my hope that, with leadership that is not divisive, [we will eventually be united]. Ultimately, people are exhausted from the fighting, and I hope they are willing to come back together.”