Campaign 2016: Jobs, immigration, and candidates’ character top voter issues

UC Riverside experts available to discuss variety of issues at the top of party agendas

election logoRIVERSIDE, Calif. – The 2016 presidential campaign is proving to be like no other in modern memory. These scholars from the University of California, Riverside are available to help make sense of the issues, voter behavior, and the significance of the candidates’ positions. Cell numbers are available upon request.

Voter behavior

Shaun Bowler, distinguished professor of political science
Voter behavior, direct democracy, third-party candidates

Bowler’s research examines the relationship between institutional arrangements and voter choice in a variety of settings ranging from the Republic of Ireland to California’s initiative process. He is the co-author of “Demanding Choices: Opinion Voting and Direct Democracy” and has studied elections all over the world. He analyzes the effect of third party candidates on elections.

Kate Sweeny, associate professor of psychology
Waiting for election results, motivation to vote

As an expert on the best wait to wait for news, Sweeny’s work speaks to how anxiety-provoking it can be to wait for election results, especially in a high-stakes election. She has also studied how beliefs and expectations can predict voting behavior and reactions to election outcomes. For example, in her research, Sweeny has found supporters who remained optimistic about the passage of a 2010 proposition on the ballot in California as Election Day approached were more likely to vote but also more disappointed after the measure failed than those who braced for the worst and became pessimistic as the moment of truth drew near.

Poverty, the economy, jobs

David Brady, professor of public policy
Director of the Blum Initiative for Global and Regional Policy
Poverty, inequality, labor, social class, social policy

Brady’s research focuses on poverty, inequality, and social policy. He investigates a variety of questions related to poverty/inequality, comparative political economy, social policy, politics, health/healthcare, globalization/development, and work/labor. He is the author of “Rich Democracies, Poor People: How Politics Explain Poverty” and co-editor of “The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Poverty.”

Andrew Subica, assistant professor of social medicine and population health in the School of Medicine
Improving evidence-based treatments, services, and public policies for underserved individuals

Subica’s research addresses the intersection of health and mental health disparities among vulnerable populations including persons of color, individuals with psychiatric disabilities, survivors of trauma, individuals experiencing homelessness, and refugees.

“While issues of race have emerged as an important topic of debate in the general election, splitting the candidates and their supporters, for many people of color, its effects run beyond police violence or threat of deportation to impact all areas of health. For instance, those living in low-income communities of color are among this nation’s unhealthiest, largely because they live and work in neighborhoods that cannot meet their basic health needs such as clean air and water, affordable healthy food, and safe areas to exercise. As a result, they suffer high rates of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, in addition to being at risk for encountering crime and violence during their daily lives. These neighborhood problems are especially dire because they disproportionately affect people marginalized because of their race, especially children of color, placing them on a lifelong course of poor health and early death.”

Christopher Thornberg, director of the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting and Development
The economy, housing, and jobs

Thornberg is the founding partner of Beacon Economics LLC and is widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading economists. An expert in economic forecasting, regional economics, labor markets, economic policy, and industry and real estate analysis, he was one of the earliest and most adamant predictors of the sub-prime mortgage market collapse and of the global economic recession that followed.

Robert Kleinhenz, economist and executive director of research at the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development
The economy, housing and jobs

One of California’s leading economists, Kleinhenz has nearly 30 years of experience analyzing the U.S. and California economies and the economies of California’s many diverse regions.

 Immigration, race, terrorism

 Jennifer Merolla, professor of political science
Terrorism, immigration, gender, participation/voting behavior

Merolla is available to discuss how the political environment shapes individual attitudes and behavior across many domains such as candidate evaluations during elections, immigration policy attitudes, foreign policy attitudes, and support for democratic values and institutions, as well as the impact of terrorism on the candidacies of Democratic women. She is co-author of “Democracy at Risk: How Terrorist Threats Affect the Public.”

The Democratic Party is viewed as less capable than the Republican Party when it comes to leadership, national security and foreign policy, she says. When terrorism is in the headlines, these voter perceptions hurt women candidates in the Democratic Party but not the male candidates, whose gender counteracts the party’s weak reputation on national security. Terrorism headlines also do not hurt women in the GOP, whose reputation of being tough on terrorism appears to inoculate its female office-seekers from the weak-on-national-security stereotype ascribed to Democratic women.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of political science and public policy
Immigration, Asian American voters, immigrant engagement

Ramakrishnan’s research focuses on civic participation, immigration policy, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and immigration in the United States. Ramakrishnan directs the National Asian American Survey and is founder of, which seeks to make policy-relevant data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders more accessible to a variety of audiences. He is the author of “The New Immigration Federalism” and is founding editor of the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, an official section journal of the American Political Science Association.

Jennifer Najera, associate professor of ethnic studies

Nájera is a cultural anthropologist who is available to discuss the impact of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the campaign. Her current research focuses on undocumented students in higher education. Her expertise is in Mexican racial categorization, Latino/a education (including higher education), the history of Mexican immigration, and contemporary immigration policy. She is the author of “The Borderlands of Race: Mexican Segregation in a South Texas Community.”

Benjamin G. Bishin, professor of political science
Questions of democracy, representation, public opinion, legislative politics, Cuban-American and LGBT politics, Hispanic voters (especially in Florida and pertaining to Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans), congressional elections

In his 2009 book “Tyranny of the Minority,” Bishin describes how intense minorities are able to achieve their policy objectives. “Politicians gain disproportionate benefits by appealing to citizens who feel very strongly about things. Usually they are able to tap in to some aspect of how individuals see themselves. It’s particularly easy for this intense minority of tea party supporters to achieve their policy objectives because their objectives are to stop things from happening in Congress. Congress and our government in general are designed to make it difficult to get things to happen.”

Bishin was the principal investigator for exit polling in Miami-Dade County in the 2004 election. Research he and scholars from the University of Miami and the University of Exeter conducted before the November 2008 presidential election found that Cuban-American voters remain strongly Republican, conservative and opposed to easing sanctions on the Castro regime. Cuban American voters in Florida are more conservative than those nationally, however, so backing for normalization among Cuban American voters generally is likely strong. Exit polling in Florida found greater diversity on social issues, which may portend changing political allegiances.

Francisco Pedraza, assistant professor of political science and public policy
Latino voter turnout, voting behavior

Pedraza’s research focuses on political attitude formation and political behavior, with a special emphasis on the attitudes and behaviors of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. He is working with Latino Decisions on a project that will provide a very close look at Latino turnout in the 2016 election. The researchers have identified the most heavily Latino counties, cities, and voter precincts in 14 states: Arizona, California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Florida, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico. The project has gathered turnout and vote choice data for those areas from the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and will update with 2016 presidential election data beginning Nov. 8 and in the days after.

Dylan Rodriguez, professor of ethnic studies
Race, voter ID laws, felony disenfranchisement

Rodríguez is available to discuss the impact of voter ID laws on African Americans in particular, and what accounts for low levels of voter turnout among this population group.

“Voter ID laws were essentially created for the purposes of strengthening U.S. racial apartheid in government and elections. The long legacy of American apartheid segregation has created an electoral system that remains stubbornly racist in both its implementation and outcomes – from gerrymandering to the disenfranchisement of people with criminal convictions (which has focused primarily on disenfranchising African-Americans with criminal convictions).

“It is clear that the stubbornly institutionalized hyper-policing, racist criminalization, and structural impoverishment of black populations across the U.S. continue to make a fraud of any pretensions that the American electoral system is even remotely reflective of democratic (much less reparative and anti-racist) principles.”

Loren Collingwood, assistant professor of political science
Polling, Latino and African-American voters, cross-racial mobilization

Collingwood is available to discuss polling, the Latino and African-American vote, and cross-racial mobilization; that is, what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are saying and doing to appeal to African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and others.

Alfonso Gonzales, associate professor of ethnic studies
Latinos in politics, immigration, migrant detention, Latino refugees, Mexico and Central America

Gonzales is the author of “Reform Without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State” (Oxford University Press, 2014), which focuses on post-9/11 immigration control policies and Latino migrant activism. The book won the 2014 Americo Paredes Book Award for the best nonfiction work in the fields of Chicana/o or Latino/a studies.

Ian Oxnevad, Ph.D. student (ABD) in political science
Terrorism, national security

Oxnevad holds a master’s degree in national security studies and has published on ISIS and terrorism financing. He says that the political and economic stability that existed since the end of the Cold War is over, as well as the geopolitical environment that followed it. While old rivals such as Russia vie for influence, Moscow does not pose the same destabilizing risks as Chinese aggression in East Asia, or a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that failed diplomacy has done little to prevent.

“The terrorist threat that existed during the immediate 9/11 era has drastically changed. While classical Al Qaeda of the 1990s and early 2000s no longer exists, the threat that groups like Al Qaeda pose to polities around the world has metastasized from a single organization to one that can simultaneously vie for territory, utilize terrorist cells, and radicalize otherwise distant and unrelated individuals who turn to violence. The threat that ISIS and organizations like it pose to ordinary citizens and polities around the world is arguably one of the greatest threats to social stability and human rights in contemporary times.

“The threat environment no longer comprises traditional terrains such as land, sea, and air. Cyberspace, the international financial system, and sentiments of political legitimacy in polities around the world are emerging as strategic terrains in their own right. Non-state actors such as terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and even revisionist states have the ability to utilize vehicles of power and influence through the financial system in a manner that thwart U.S. security interests while also exerting pressures to alter the international economic arena. Realizing the growing strategic importance of the economic and financial system, and integrating the consideration of these terrains into traditional strategic calculus is imperative for policymakers in the years to come.”

Health policy

Robert Kaestner, professor of public policy and economics
Health policy, the Affordable Care Act, high prescription drug prices, California’s Prop. 56

Kaestner’s research focuses on the economic and social determinants of health, health demography, and health, labor and social policy evaluation.

Proposition 56 (The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016), which will raise the tax on all tobacco products, for example, conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, by $2 a pack, is not likely to be the public health success that backers claim, he says. The Legislative Analyst’s Office assumed a much higher number of quitters and much fewer people paying the tax because it relied on outdated research. In reality, the ballot measure is an effective way to raise tax revenue and one that is highly regressive. The fact that most (82 percent) of the additional revenue will go to health care providers suggests that Proposition 56 is primarily a disguised way for the state to raise payments to the health care sector.

Education policy

Eddie Comeaux, associate professor of higher education
Racial diversity, equality in higher education

Comeaux maintains an active research agenda that examines the college student experience – with special attention on athletes and underrepresented students – and how those experiences influence their subsequent outcomes. Central to much of his work are issues of access and equity.

Cassandra Guarino, professor of education and public policy
Teacher quality, school choice, links between health and education

Guarino has held prior positions as an economist at the Rand Corp. and on the faculties of Michigan State and Indiana Universities. Her research focuses on teacher quality, teacher labor markets, school choice, and issues in which health and education are linked. Recent work has included several studies related to value-added measures of teacher performance, teacher effectiveness in the early grades, school choice, teacher mobility, and special needs identification.
Gun policy

 Augustine Kposowa, professor and co-chair of sociology
Police and gun violence, Black Lives Matter, crime bill and mass incarceration

Kposowa studies gun availability, gun storage practices and violent death. He has conducted research on gun policy with regard to police use of force. Kposowa can also address the issue of police shootings, and guns with regard to the national divide over its control and regulation.

“There are weaknesses in our present regulatory controls, and even simple background checks will do little to curb the violence because in the case of suicides, for example, those that acquired guns did so legally; thus a broader ban is needed.”

Steven Clark, professor of psychology
Director of Presley Center for Crime and Justice 
Gun violence

Clark has done extensive research on eyewitness memory and identification, and has consulted with law enforcement, and defense and prosecuting attorneys on the matter. With regard to gun violence prevention, Clark says there is a serious need for more research. “California is ahead of the curve on this. Gun violence research at the federal level has been shut down, but the California Legislature just approved $5 million to create a center for research on gun violence. In California, the Legislature passed a bill a few months ago to systematically document all officer-involved shootings, and passed a bill just a few weeks ago to allocate $5 million to the University of California system to create a research center for gun violence.”

Environment, climate change

Carl Cranor, distinguished professor of philosophy
Environmental issues

Cranor is known globally for his research on the regulation of toxic substances, the ethics of risk, and the philosophy of law and science. His work has changed how scientific testimony is addressed in court cases as well as aspects of regulation in California. He is the author of “Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants,” “Regulating Toxic Substances: A Philosophy of Science and the Law,” and “Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice.” He co-authored a report for the Office of Technology Assessment, “Identifying and Regulating Carcinogens,” and a study by an Institute of Medicine Committee, “Valuing Health: Cost Effectiveness Analysis for Regulation.”  He has served on science advisory panels (California’s Proposition 65, Electric and Magnetic Fields, Nanotechnology, and Biomonitoring Panels) as well as on Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences Committees.

Cameron Barrows, research ecologist at the UCR Center for Conservation Biology
Climate change and its impact on biodiversity and national parks

“Lost in the debates about emails is one of the most significant environmental issues facing our country and our planet – climate change. Even the Pentagon has ranked this as a priority from the standpoint of national defense; as the planet warms, essential water and food resources will shift; nations with less will be pressed to meet the basic needs of their people. Warmer, and in many areas wetter, conditions could foster the spread of disease-carrying mosquitos, spreading malaria, Zika, dengue, West Nile diseases, and ticks carrying Lyme disease. Lumber resources are at risk, directly and indirectly, from massive wildfires due to the spread of pine beetles that are no longer controlled by cold winter temperatures. National parks and wilderness areas, the repository of our nation’s natural heritage, are ill-prepared to stem the degradation of that natural heritage as the planet heats up and rainfall patterns shift.”

Women in politics

Catherine Allgor, distinguished external fellow, Center for Ideas and Society
Women in American political history, First Ladies (First Gentleman?), the power of women voters

Allgor is a historian who specializes in issues of women and politics with an emphasis on the role of the First Lady. She is available to discuss the presumptive nominees’ spouses as possible First Ladies – or First Gentleman – as well as the long history of American women in politics, and what it might mean to have a female president. She is the author of “Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government,” “A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation,” and “The Queen of America: Mary Cutts’s Life of Dolley Madison,” explores the memoir Mary Cutts wrote of her famous aunt. Allgor was appointed by President Obama to serve on the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation.

Media Contact

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Sarah Nightingale
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Mojgan Sherkat
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