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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Diversity expands election

    For the first time in history, a black man is going head-to-head with a white man for the U.S. presidency. Make that white man elderly and add in a woman, and you’ve got an election like one never before seen.

    “”And consequently, it has really brought to the floor race, age and gender in very unique and interesting ways,”” said Kate Kenski, assistant professor of communications. Kenski researches factors affecting voters’ perception of presidential candidates.

    While Kenski has been researching for the past 10 years, this is the first election in which, no matter who wins, there will be a cosmetic change in the White House.

    According to her research, having such a diverse group of candidates has “”really helped expand the dialogue about what the United States is ready for,”” Kenski said. “”People are increasingly, across the campaign, becoming more willing to say that they believe that the United States is ready to elect a black president.””

    Though she also said that people are more willing to believe that the United States is ready to elect a woman president, Kenski added, “”It appears that being a female is more of a barrier at this point than the idea of electing a black man.””

    Ultimately, Kenski’s research has led her to say that party identification “”trumps”” any racist, ageist and sexist feelings.

    Even so, the competitive field remains unequal as far as voters’ perceptions are concerned. Students have their own opinions as to how cosmetic factors affect voter perceptions.

    Hector Treto, a architecture senior, believes that “”there’s more than just looks”” determining attitudes toward candidates. He also said that “”it all depends on how interested people are”” in the election.

    However, mathematics senior Andrew Somers thinks that age, race and gender do play a part in how voters view candidates.

    “”Age is a factor, and I think that’s a reasonable one,”” referring to Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s age and the chance that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin could become president.

    Lisa Vollen, an undeclared freshman, also said that age plays a part.

    “”A lot of young people want to vote for Barack Obama,”” she said. “”I’m sure they have no idea about Barack Obama, just that he’s black and young.””

    Vollen also said Palin’s gender is a factor, that she’s heard “”a lot of people talking about how she’s hot”” and will vote for Palin based on that.

    On Palin, Somers said “”being a woman plays in her favor. I think she’s going to snare people who want to vote for a woman.””

    Although it is unknown to what extent factors such as age, race and gender will affect the current election, most people believe that the effects will decrease with time.

    “”We’re still not at the point where everyone’s on board to the point where we can really put aside cosmetic differences and focus on real issues,”” she said.

    When it comes to cosmetic differences in upcoming elections. Kenski believes the future looks positive.

    “”What our data shows,”” she said, “”although we’re not there yet, we’re moving in the right direction.””

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