AP Research Week 2: The Gap in the Research

Apr 28, 2022

Last week I spoke about why I generally chose this area, but I really narrowed it down by looking at what gaps were left by other researchers. This study fills these gaps in three ways. First, pre-existing research fails to link political violence and faith in elections. Sometimes political violence will be linked to partisanship (as noted in “Dark triad, partisanship and violent intentions in the United States” or “The Correlates of Discord: Identity, Issue Alignment, and Political Hostility in Polarized America”). A lack of faith in elections is linked to a variety of factors like bureaucratic failures (see “Election Administration and Perceptions of Fair Elections”) or just conspiratorial thinking (like in “The Effect of Conspiratorial Thinking and Motivated Reasoning on Belief in Election Fraud”). The only study to really mention them both is the Survey Center on American Life’s look at a variety of post election topics. However, this survey is so broad encompassing every topic like patriotism and Donald Trump, and barely touches on political violence and election fraud. Even here, though, it treats the two topics as separate, and doesn’t mention any correlation. Many other studies look at how one or the other is worsening. The most extreme probably being the 2013 Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll on Conspiratorial thinking in the US which found that almost 63% of registered voters believe in at least one electoral conspiracy, from Bush having previous knowledge of 9/11 to Obama concealing documents about his background. This doesn’t include the people who have lost so much faith in the system that they don’t even bother to vote. Nonetheless, the lack of investigation into a correlation has yet to be filled.

Furthermore, all of these surveys are far too broad in demographic to see how location affects it, like proximity to The Capitol. In this study, both NYU and Georgetown University students are being looked at. Both schools are similar enough so far as to see if Georgetown’s witnessing of the Capitol Riot may affect their support of political violence. If witnessing political violence weakens support for it, then overtime, in a world where it becomes more common, it will also garner less support. This correlation could mean that the problem solves itself. 

Lastly, as this study focuses on the future, it focuses on a younger demographic. By choosing college students, not only does that help create consistency for the checking of proximity, it also helps look at how future voters and the political force of the future will act and feel. These students are future activists, voters, and politicians. By looking at them now, modeling their behavior in 15 or 20 years will be much easier. In order to fill the gap in these three ways, this study asks the question: What is the correlation in support for political violence and belief in unfair elections among Georgetown University and NYU students?

Hudson Hort

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