What You Need to Know

Political science professor Nicole Mellow
Political scientist Nicole Mellow is already laying the groundwork for a scholarly analysis of the upcoming presidential election.

When Barack Obama swept the 2008 elections, pundits and pollsters alike heralded the win as the start of a new progressive era. But Williams political scientist Nicole Mellow saw something else altogether. Her research, undertaken for a scholarly analysis to be published just a few months later by Congressional Quarterly Press, suggested that Obama’s victory was not the sea change everyone was anticipating.

“While journalists provide instant feedback,” Mellow says, “the work of scholars, who consider the results in a larger historical context or in light of what we know about election regularities, typically takes more time.”

Already laying the groundwork for her analysis of the 2012 contest, which she’ll submit to CQ Press just a few weeks after Election Day, Mellow offers a glimpse of what she’s paying attention to right now.

• Red and blue are not fixed properties.
• Sometimes there are seismic shifts in politics, but we’re probably not experiencing one right now.
• So-called new movements really aren’t that new.
• Even independents are rarely that, meaning elections are won at the (increasingly small) margins.
• “It’s (maybe) the economy, Stupid.”

Read more of her thoughts on the election in the July 2012 Williams Alumni Review. (Or view the text-only version.)