On Thursday Oct. 8, Falvey Memorial Library hosted the first lecture in its 2020 Presidential Election Virtual Series. 

The lecture, given by Camille Burge, Ph.D., focused on “Race in the Election” and how emotions affect the election results. Burge centered her lecture on not only how the conversation about how race in the United States gives important context to how certain states and groups of people will vote, but also how this conversation is emotion-driven.

These negative emotions range from anger, anxiety and fear, to disgust and sadness. With the topic of racial inequality prevalent in the nation today, this lecture came at an opportune time to explain why emotions are more of a driving factor in people’s votes rather than rational thoughts. This idea was highlighted in Affective Intelligence and Political Judgement, written by George Marcus, Michael MacKuen and W. Russell Neuman.

Burge highlighted how these emotions are mobilizing mechanisms when empowering groups of people to vote. Intergroup emotions are present with the police killings of unarmed African Americans because the police are considered an out-group object to the in-group subject of unarmed African Americans. many responses worldwide.

According to Burge, people can attribute this to a range of powerful emotions. Anger is extremely important in this because it leads to a desire to regain control and attack the “source of the injury” if necessary. The death of George Floyd led to political participation through an increase in voter registration and widespread protests in support of Black Lives Matter. 

Many people are also anxious and afraid for the upcoming election because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The elderly are afraid to vote in-person on Election Day because they are at a greater risk of a severe reaction to contracting COVID-19. Anxiety leading towards less elderly people exercising their right to vote is something that will be important to take note of when looking at election results. 

Fear is an extensive emotion felt throughout the Black community as well. In a survey that Burge conducted in 2017, 1,500 Black Americans were asked about the emotions that most control their lives. 83% of survey participants identified fear as that emotion.  

With less than one month until Election Day, U.S. citizens see that it is more of a fear of reelecting Donald Trump than wanting to elect Joe Biden. For those that support Trump, there is more enthusiasm for him than being opposed to Biden. 

In the question and answer section that took place after the lecture, Burge was asked a variety of questions spanning from her thoughts on the past presidential and vice presidential debate to her election predictions.

Her primary prediction was that the polling data will not be completely reliable in forecasting the election results. While polls show Biden with a double digit lead, it is not reflective of what will happen on Election Day because of a widespread fear of voter suppression and ballots not being counted. Burge’s advice for young people who fear the future was to do something about it. 

Over the past few months, the U.S. has seen mass organization of young people in protests, so she wants those people fighting for equality to find an organization that they are passionate about and get involved. Confronting those fears by taking action is the best way to enact change in the world that we are living in, according to Burge.