Date: September 28, 2016
Time: 12:30 pm ET
Panelists: Dr. Lara Brown, the Interim Director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University
Subject: Using the most recent presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as an example, Dr. Lara Brown takes a look into how the media judge a political debate and how it could impact an election.
How Do Media Judge A Debate
Date: September 28, 2016
Moderator: Okay. Hi everyone again. So, welcome to the George Washington University Graduate School of Management, Masters of Political Management School Webinar. Thank you for taking the time to join us today and with Monday night’s Presidential debate fresh in our minds, this will be a very exciting webinar. We have Dr. Lara Brown on the call from Washington, DC today. She will discuss how the media judge a debate and how they should judge a debate and I’m your moderator for today. We will just like to conduct a simple survey to complement today’s webinar. There will be three questions. So, let’s start with the first one.
Who do you want to win going into the debate? Perfect. Going into the second question.
Did you watch the debate on Monday night? All right. And final question is.
Who do believe won the debate after having seen it or heard about the actual debate?
So after answering all these questions we will reveal the results from everyone on the call today as part of Lara’s presentation shortly. I hope everyone got the chance to answer all their questions.
So we’re going to go back to the webinar and let me introduce again, Lara Brown who is on the call recess from Washington, DC and again I want to welcome Lara Brown.
Dr. Lara Brown is the Graduate School of Political Management Interim Director and an Associate Professor. As the Interim Director, among many responsibilities she does set the standards for all our Masters degrees and also develops unique applied political curriculums. She’s also a distinguished writer who is the author of the recent book entitled Jockeying for the American Presidency, The Political Opportunisms of Aspirants.
Now Dr. Brown is also a regular contributor to the U.S. News and World Reports, Thomas Jefferson’s street blog and is quoted regularly on leading media outlets nationwide. And prior to academia she also worked on education policy and public affairs consultant. Dr. Brown has also served in President William J. Clinton’s administration at the U.S. Department of Education. She’s also very active on Social Media so you can definitely follow her on Twitter at Lara M. Brown, Ph.D.
So once again I want to welcome Dr. Brown and thank you for being here today and I will pass it over to you for your presentation Lara.
Dr. Brown: Great. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it and I am excited to be here today. There’s nothing more fun, right, then talking about politics for those who are interested in it and this webinar today should be a lot of fun in the sense that we’re going to talk about some of the political science research that has happened around debates and what we know about how they essentially affect public opinion and eventually the outcome of the race. I really appreciate that all of you have essentially submitted some of your answers on these questions. Why I actually asked them will become apparent a little bit later and what I’m actually going to do is just sort of reveal the results to you so that you have a sense of where we are.
So, first we asked you whom did you want to win going into the debate? A majority of you actually were interested in Clinton winning. Close to 58% percent. About 26% percent of you were hoping for Trump and the rest were for a different outcome. Some other outcome, either a tie or perhaps you hoped that Gary Johnson would be on stage. But what I think is interesting about this is that most of you, over essentially 75% percent of you, close to what I guess actually, I take it back, 85% percent, close to 85% of you were actually wanting one person or another to win this debate. Now here’s what’s interesting. Guess what? About 85% percent of you watched the debate. And this is something we’re going to talk about in a minute.
One of the things that’s so fascinating is that the people who tend to watch debates tend to be those people who already essentially have a candidate or a party. They’re, if you will, tuning into the sport of debate and rooting for their team. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the people who were hoping for another outcome were actually overlapped quite substantially with the people who only read or heard about it. I’m sure it’s not a perfect correlation, but I imagine that there is some substantial overlap.
In addition, one of the things that is very interesting is, about 65% percent of you believed that essentially Clinton won the debate. Now that’s not quite 58% percent but it’s very close and what we’re also going to talk about today is how much overlap there is between who you wanted to win before and who you believe won after. There is essentially this team-rooting phenomenon and there’s very little reluctance on the part of partisans to in fact, argue that there was some other outcome.
So what does this all mean? Just let me kind of review at the most basic level what this is all about. Do debates actually matter to a campaign? Interestingly enough one of the things that political science has found is that watching a debate itself, so the debate, the exchange, the conversation that goes on between the candidates and with the moderator, only rarely changes minds about the candidates, about the issues or even for that matter, about the perception of the contest in terms of who is likely winning and the horse race itself.
Why is this true? Well part of it’s true because you probably saw this in some of our poll results, that typically it’s part of some supports who do tune in. So the vast majority, that 84,000,000 million-person audience that was watching the debate on Monday night already likely had their candidate picked out and were essentially tuning in to root for their team. And interestingly enough, if we were to survey or take a census I should say of all 84,000,000 million people who tuned in, it’s highly likely that essentially who those people wanted to win beforehand is who they would say won afterwards.
So there is this fascinating correlation and there is not much in the sense of an objective reality. And I say this because this is where politics is not like tuning into a sporting event. Right? I went to UCLA for my undergraduate and doctorate and I can tell you last weekend was an incredibly depressing UCLA football game against the very strong Stanford team, but for those who don’t know, UCLA essentially dominated about fifty-eight minutes of the game and then completely fell apart in the last two minutes and gave away the win.
But I will tell you the interesting part about it is as a UCLA Bruin I have to be, you know, sort of objective. They lost. The final score board was the final score board. Stanford earned more points than UCLA and as a result I have to essentially admit the loss.
What is so fascinating about presidential debates is that some of what happens is in the eye of the beholder and so as a result when people and partisans are judging the debate they usually will essentially poll on the moments in the debate that are essentially rationales for their declaration of whom they believe won.
So if you believe that Donald Trump won, even though sort of most of the media did eventually come down on the side of Hillary Clinton winning, you might talk about the fact that he really did sort of get under her skin and sort of land a couple of attacks when he talked about her, yes she had experience but she had bad experience. You would also maybe bring up the fact that he referred to her calling the TPP, the Transpacific Partnership that’s related to trade, that she had referred to it as the gold standard at one point in time. You would also probably refer to the fact that he brought up that on NAFTA he was very strong in the sense of, she talked about how her husband had negotiated NAFTA and the economy had been going well in the 90’s and he brought up the fact that NAFTA was one of the worst trade deals ever negotiated and he basically put the blame back on her husband Bill Clinton.
If of course, Hillary was your candidate going in, you would have then polled on these other moments that were favorable to her. And if you will, you would have justified your description of the debate rather than essentially objectively looking at the pros and cons of who did what and sort of tallying up the numbers of points and then coming to a conclusion.
Now, why is this important? Well why this ends up being important is that if essentially the debate itself doesn’t change minds of sort of your typical undecided voter or those voters who didn’t tune in, because of those people who did tune in, basically saw what they wanted to see. How do the polls change or in what ways do public opinion change in relation to the debates? Well, what essentially happens is that the media commentary become incredibly important. So it is all of the kind of immediate political spin that happens afterwards among partisans and then media commentary and judgements about who won or who lost that ends up impacting the public and essentially the assessments of people about the debates and of course, it ends up changing public opinion because those people who didn’t tune in or were undecided about the candidates or the issues or their perception on a contest itself, will essentially join with what becomes and crystallizes the conventional wisdom about the debate.
This is really a fascinating process if you will. Because what it means, and this is where I will tell you some of what we do in our school is spend a lot of time talking about how does one frame arguments and create essentially effective messaging and rhetoric. But why this is important is because it really is, in essentially the twenty-four hours right after the debate, that the debate outcome, who won and why, becomes crystallized. And it is crystallized through this process of both sides essentially spinning their argument and competing for a perception about what actually happened.
Now what does this mean? Well, this means that, you know, when we’re talking about the media, then there’s this question of how do they judge? So partisans we know, all these partisans’ strategists, right, who you see kind of on the panels and they say Republic strategists or Democratic strategists, they’re essentially like all the other partisans who tune in. They are going to defend their candidate. They’re going to selectively pick moments that are favorable to the candidate that they wanted to win. They’re going to describe those, argue for them and essentially make the case that their candidate won.
So we don’t have to worry about them to a certain degree. But the question is how do journalists, how do the media judge? How do these people who are purportedly impartial, who are journalists by training and tradition, make their calls? My colleague who is in Australia, he did his doctorate at the University of Oxford and now he teaches at a university in Australia, he and I were fascinated by this question of how do the media come to their judgements? And what we really believed was that there was probably a lot of ways that they could come to a judgement.
You know, you could think of them, like are they as objective as their sort of profession suggests that they are? Right? The profession of journalism suggests that they are essentially calling balls and strikes and that they are meticulously and in some ways objectively describing a debate performance. This would basically put them in the roll of umpire. Right? Their basically saying where were the good hits? Where were the bad, you know, throws and what is really going on? But my colleague and I also know that that isn’t necessarily what happens.
In fact if you read the political science literature you will find that there is previous research that suggests that in fact the media do a horrible job of accurately describing what exactly happened at the debate. Not only that, there is some political science research that suggests that a candidate that relies too heavily on evidence may in fact essentially lose a debate because there is some scholars who have looked at, you know, how truthful or how substantial and substantive have the candidates claims been in the debate and do the media favor those things?
So my colleague and I looked at that existing research and said to ourselves, well how else might they come up with judgements? We realized that obviously, you know, there might be some journalists who are working for ideologically conservative or liberal or partisan outlets. They might in fact, judge them the way that partisans do. But that is somewhat of an uninteresting result in the sense that we already know how partisans judge the debate. They’ll be arguing in favour of their party’s candidate so that’s not a really novel explanation.
At the same time there’s another piece that my colleague and I believe exists but we don’t really have evidence for yet and it’s something we’re hoping to test down the road and it is that journalists judge the debate basically based upon sort of what makes news. Or is there something new that was revealed? So in other words, they’re looking for headlines. They’re looking for breaking news. They’re looking for kind of exciting moments in a debate. And they might judge it as being, you know, a good debate or a bad debate for one candidate or against based upon kind of moments and exchange. They might also judge a debate that doesn’t really have any sort of standout moments, like Bush Senior looking at his watch, which made headlines after he debated Ross Perot and Bill Clinton.
I think what you essentially see is that there is something to this. Right? They might judge a boring debate as one that doesn’t really have any crystallizing moment.
So my colleague and I do want to test that. We do think there’s something there. We also tend to believe that that kind of bias toward newsworthy breaking moments or newness may actually favor the candidates who are newer on the stage and this might be part of the reason why it’s not unusual for incumbent presidents to lose their first debate when they are debating.
You can think back even to sort of people who have been around or on the political stage a long time, right? Barack Obama essentially was seen to have bested John McCain in 2008 and our question is, is that because Barack Obama was new to the national stage, or is it because Barack Obama did a really great job? Or is it because the media were bored by that time of John McCain kind of maverick reputation. They had covered that back in 2000 and they were kind of tired of him. Was it also the case that this played into the debate with then Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore?
Al Gore was judged as losing the debate and again, the question that my colleague and I have that we’re hoping to test down the road, is did he lose because he was sort of objectively worse than Governor George W. Bush or was it because Governor George W. Bush was new to the scene? He was not a well-known national figure. Prior to running for the presidency while he was Governor of Texas most people hadn’t really known him or engaged with him and certainly Al Gore, as the Vice President, the sitting Vice President was seen as someone old or boring, right, to cover.
So, that’s one of our theories, like I said we haven’t really tested yet, but we believe it may have some purchase because of the incentive for journalism around finding breaking news. Having newsworthy moments to describe and/or essentially being more entranced by and interested in what is new because they know that will bring more viewers and in our sort of current day world, more eyeballs to, you know, their web pages where this reporting is going on.
But we also, and what we tested in this article that we wrote about it and what I’ll sort of focus on for the last few minutes today, is looked at how important are the pre-debate narratives? Because certainly one of the other ways that media journalist may essentially weigh in and judge a debate is really based upon their pre-debate narrative. In other words, their expectations about what they thought would happen and why as well as, sort of, the campaign narratives that are already constructed and occurring that are related to the horse race and the candidates biographies and the personality traits of the candidates themselves.
So what we really did was, we were fascinated with essentially the Obama versus McCain debate in 2008, the very first one. It was a fascinating context for this debate if you remember. 2008 was in fact the first open seat election where there was no incumbent running or heir apparent since 1952, so this was kind of a new moment in our American political history in the sense that we hadn’t had it for a while.
John McCain was obviously a Senator who had run before but he certainly had not served in Bush’s administration. He was not necessarily seen as Bush’s anointed heir apparent. He had a very contested primary but everybody believed he was very strong on foreign policy. His expertise and interests since he’s been in the U.S. Senate has really been on foreign policy in the military and so there were questions and an understanding and belief, a narrative that John McCain would do very well in this debate.
Now for those of you who remember, this debate also took place in late September which was after Lehman Brothers going bankrupt and when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt our economic sort of system fell apart to a certain degree and there was a lot of chaos in the markets and our economy was very quickly plummeting and sort of American lawmakers were working frantically to figure out if there was some ways that they could essentially help stabilize the markets, stabilize our economy and make sure that what was looking like a recession at the time, didn’t become a depression. And one of the things that occurred was that John McCain said he was going to suspend his campaign and go back to Washington to try to help people in Washington construct some solutions and he got to Washington and not much, he really wasn’t able to contribute much to the conversation. The conversation was really taking place between the majority and minority leaders of the House and the Senate and the President and John McCain looked like something of a third wheel.
He also in that pre-debate moment threatened to pull out of the debate all together because of the economic collapse and there was also this sense that because McCain was from the Republican party the narrative was that how could somebody essentially from the Republican party fix the economy when in fact there was a Republican President already in the White House. In other words, the sense was that Barack Obama, even though he was a new Senator, even though he himself had not spent much time thinking about or being focused on economic policy, if you remember his campaign, it was actually mostly about us getting out of the Iraq war, much of what he had run on and discussed was foreign policy. But with the pivot at that moment to the economy, the Democrats sort of immediately became favored and this notion that Barack Obama because he was from the Democratic Party, because it was the party opposite the President, that essentially their economic, fiscal and monetary type solutions would be much preferred to the Republicans who were in office and who were going to be seen and labelled as sort of as responsible for the collapse.
So that narrative was circulating. So if you will, Obama would win the economic argument, McCain would win the foreign policy argument and when it came to demeanor and temperament it was absolutely believed that Barack Obama would actually stand up to John McCain. So even though they were questions about Barack Obama being a new Senator and young, there was a sense that he had a very cool demeanor, that he was rational and logical and, you know, I think as they said during the primaries, he was no drama Obama and that he would essentially do very well at meeting that threshold test of who is presidential? Are they able to essentially carry the weight of that office from a leadership perspective?
Because while McCain had a ton of experience and was around Washington for a long time, many people did believe that his kind of known nickname of being a maverick was going to be something of a problem to him and then his campaigns behavior and the immediate lead up to this debate where he talked about suspending his campaign, pulling out of the debate and then he came back to the campaign trail, all of that made him appear erratic. In addition, the press have known John McCain at this point for a long time. They also knew that he had a pretty hot temper and so he was seen as being somebody who no one was really sure if he would be able to kind of, you know, be calm, cool, collected and logical in this somewhat time of crisis.
Now what was interesting about this debate is its focus was supposed to be foreign policy because of the economic collapse about a third of the debate actually ended up being focused on the economy. But nonetheless, if you look at the narratives themselves, these pre-debate narratives, two of the three pre-debate narratives essentially favoured an Obama win.
And so what we were interested in is how, and we call it essentially resilient and salient, were those narratives in terms of shaping the outcome. One of the things that we looked for was how often do the media essentially site a narrative. If they site it an awful lot, meaning, well you know in this time of an uncertain economy Barack Obama was very good on that. Right? If they say those types of things in their media commentary and then poll on debate moments to rationalize their judgements, we considered it a highly salient narrative.
We then looked at the resilience of narratives in the sense of, did it have a construction in the same form, meaning was it almost word for word essentially the narrative that came before the debate and what we found out was that in the 2008 election in this 2008 first Presidential debate was that the two narratives that favored Barack Obama essentially were both highly resilient and highly salient in the aftermath of the debate.
So in other words the media really judged Barack Obama and judged the entire debate by the two narratives that at the outset favored Barack Obama.
So what does this mean? Well, at the end of the day what it really means in terms of what my colleague and I think of, is that our pre-debate expectations and what we sort of view those expectations and those narratives, essentially end of shaping how we judge the debate and how we describe and rationalize that outcome later on. Or should say, that’s how the media do it, not unlike how the public does it and this is part of why what is so fascinating is that while the media may not be judging kind of a partisan or ideologically matter way, they are ready, if you will, have their winners going in and their losers before the debate actually happens.
So one of the things I thought would be kind of fun is to talk a little bit about some of the narratives and rationales that were in existence prior to Monday’s debate. If you think about it, a lot of what the media were talking about in the run up to the debate was the fact that Hillary Clinton was taking it very seriously. She was doing all of these sessions to prepare. She had, you know, people essentially pretending to be Donald Trump. That they were working very hard to figure out ways to get under his skin and that they were preparing for everything. And that Donald Trump as he has been for much of this campaign, sort of you know, waved off those types of activities. He said, no, you can be over prepared and I don’t want to come off essentially in a stilted way and I think in that comment he was referring to how Marco Rubio was polled out as something of a robot during the primary debates.
And I think Donald Trump was believing that he would be able to improvise and essentially pick things up on the fly because he had done it in so many other debates and that would be fine. I think most of the journalists who were reporting on that had already essentially made a judgement about whether or not what Donald Trump was doing was wise or foolish.
So it is no surprise to me that one of the major narratives that came out of the debate after it actually occurred was that Clinton was more prepared. And that Donald Trump appeared to be trying to improvise and that he was really relying on aspects of his thumb speech and that yes, he had some attacks but quite frankly he also seemed to be defending more than attacking and all of that was about sort of how he had not taken the debate seriously.
So in other words it seems as though part of the narrative after the debate, how the journalists judged it was also partly based upon what they thought about Donald Trump not taking it seriously prior to the debate.
Obviously demeanor and temperament, I think, have been a big question part of the pre-debate narratives. There was all the discussion about Hillary and her stamina. There was all the questions about Donald Trump and his kind of blustery persona and his kind of way in which he just attacks people and goes after people. And there was this uncertainty about whether or not he could be presidential. That’s been a long running discussion. There have also fit in with this, been these conversation about sort of gender stereotypes and then individual perceptions of the candidate. Right? Whether or not Hillary would be seen as kind of relatable and likeable and if you will, feminine or if she would continue to be sort of this cold analytical person that she comes off as so often, and obviously would there be some sort of gender construction to how this debate played out, whereby Donald Trump is this aggressive alpha male would be seen as bullying, you know, this woman in such a way that related to in fact the debate that Hillary Clinton had with Rick Lazio back when she was running for the Senate in 2000.
There’s also, obviously, this narrative that favors Donald Trump about him being an outsider and I think this is where it’s kind of interesting because when you start stacking up these narratives, I think the first two about preparation and demeanor favor Hillary Clinton. I think this outsider versus insider narrative favors Donald Trump because people believe it is the year of the outsider and that the establishment is vastly unpopular, and so when you think about how things were sort of described in the aftermath, the people who were arguing that Donald Trump did well were often saying, he didn’t need to really focus on specifics, he just needed to connect with his supporters who believe that the insiders have it wrong.
And this is where the thirty years of bad experience on Hillary Clinton’s part is really helpful and Donald Trump did the right thing by bringing up the fact that she’s a total insider if she’s been thinking about all of these issues for so long why hasn’t she achieved more success with them.
And I think that narrative certainly favored Donald Trump. I also think this question around judgement and common sense versus experience and knowledge has really been a narrative that’s been hanging around for the entire presidential cycle.
If you think about it, right, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump essentially made these arguments in their respective primary fields and the Democrat’s came down on the side of no, we want experience and knowledge, not sort of you know, judgement and/or common sense, which is what Bernie Sanders said he had. But the Republicans came down on the other side of it. They said, we don’t care that he doesn’t have any experience. It doesn’t matter that he’s not, you know, a Governor from Texas like Rick Perry or a Senator from Texas like Ted Cruz, or you know, another individual who essentially ran in the primary with those kinds of political backgrounds.
The Republicans said no, we want essentially outsiders with judgement and common sense and this is where if you even think about the Republican primaries you can see that Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump all sort of had their moments. But Donald Trump, celebrity, I think allowed him to out shine the other outsiders in the field and then helped him prevail against the insiders.
So again, when you look at this I’m not so sure that that last judgement or common sense has a favorite. You have partisans on different sides of the aisle basically favoring different things. So if I were to look at this I would essentially say, you know, the first two narratives really favor I think Hillary Clinton. The outsider versus insider, I think, really favors Donald Trump. This judgement and common sense versus experience and knowledge of politics I think is a draw because it really depends on who you’re talking to in terms of who they think actually would be the better person and this is where one of the other things that is fascinating is how much did the attacks that he landed versus the attacks that she landed played into these narratives or not.
And what I would argue is that all of Donald Trump’s essentially attacks really fell into that judgement and common sense narrative and into this outsider insider narrative. But I would also argue that the press wasn’t necessarily judging this debate on those two issues. I think they were judging them on, and I think if you looked at the media narratives prior to the debate you would see they were judging them on the first two narratives and so unsurprisingly those first two narratives that favored Hillary Clinton ended up, I think, favoring her after the debate.
There’s this long normative questions about did the media make the right call and I’m not going to go into that today but my colleague I have been trying to essentially sort out, you know, an understanding of if the media judged the debate like an umpire, would it be the same as if, would it be the same outcome as it they judged it in this narrative fashion.
We basically say in our research that yes, in the 2008 debate with McCain and Obama that was actually the case because Obama actually did better on sort of all of the marks in the debate but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they always make the right call.
The question is, will this matter? Yes. The argument is no doubt and the research is there in political science that the media’s commentaries about the debates do matter.
I think as you guys saw in your own polls that we just took at the start of this call, that at the end of the day the media did essentially come down along the side that Hillary Clinton won the debate and you yourself, in this poll, more of you suggested that Hillary Clinton won than not. So I think it is true that yes, essentially our perceptions of the debate afterward, the media commentary of the debate afterward, all of those things do suggest that they will matter. The polls will likely show something of a bump for Hillary Clinton probably next week, late this week or early next week. It is also possible that some of those who are undecided will move off the sidelines and will have made their decision.
But then there’s the question of will the other debates matter? In political science we do know that the first debate tends to be the one that kind of means the most because there’s the highest stakes and the highest uncertainty around it so these narratives really matter. But that being said, what is so fascinating is that these narratives and these expectations for each debate change. There’s a whole new set of narratives developing for what is likely to happen in the next debate that is a town hall format.
And this is where we would argue and I would tell you as a professor who teachers in this world of political management, you can’t lose sight of what the current narrative is. Because if Hillary Clinton goes back in the town hall to doing just what she did on Monday night I wouldn’t be surprised if she lost the second debate. In other words, she and her campaign staff now need to realize that the narrative is changing. Right? Underneath her there is this sense that, okay she won, she’s more prepared than he is and she has a better temperament.
Now the question might actually become, and I would imagine much of the media coverage in the next few days are going to be dealing with this, is essentially do we anticipate that Hillary will actually finally be able to connect with people and relate to people in a town hall environment, or will Donald Trump do that better and will his improvisational style actually work better in a town hall or worse.
We’re already in this essentially changing expectations, changing narrative world and this is where I would argue that if her campaign is going to prepare her well, and if his campaign is going to prepare him well, they need to understand what are the questions and the narratives by which these candidates will be judged after the debate.
So that’s where we are and I want to thank you for essentially being here talking a little bit about the debate. I’ll look forward to getting those questions in a minute.
I did just want to quickly describe for you a little bit about our Masters in Political Management program. I’ve kind of been referring to it in a broader way but I do want to kind of give you some more of the specifics. The Graduate School of Political Management is the only school in the country where we essentially give MBA’s for politics. And what I mean by that is that our graduate degrees are highly applicable and relevant for those who are wanting to work in politics and run for office. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll all be working on a campaign. There are a lot of jobs that are related to politics from government relations to public affairs, consulting, that are essentially deeply imbedded within the political world and with applied politics.
So, our courses are really designed and set up so that you can essentially earn a graduate degree while you are working full-time in the field. This is where I think of our programs a lot like an Executive MBA. We do also have two separate platforms for how our Masters in Political Management is essentially delivered.
One is fully online. One is fully on campus. There are the same number of credits in both essentially platforms because it’s the same degree and the courses are likewise incredibly similar even though the platform, the delivery and some of the assignments are different. The actual curriculum goals and learning outcomes, though, are very much the same.
So it’s a thirty-six credit hours and what that really means is because our students go to school year round, either in the evenings on campus or online in an asynchronous fashion. You essentially complete the degree in a two-year period of time because we have three different terms over the course of a year and students typically take two classes each term.
As I mentioned, our online program is asynchronous meaning it doesn’t have a class meeting. It is essentially week-to-week assignments that must be done and you take classes sequentially. So each class is essentially six weeks in length. There is a two-week break between them and then you go on to the next class.
If you’re on campus you tend to essentially meet with your class once a week from 7:10 to 9:40 in the evening and then if you take two classes in a semester it basically means you would be finishing sort of doing two classes a week and again, you’d finish this program in two years.
What is important about this and is a little bit hard to see as a slide unless you have it enlarged on your screen, but generally speaking, why we put together this slide is to try to give a student a sense of what the different types of graduate degrees that exist.
If you really do want to go be an attorney it’s important to go to law school. You cannot be a practicing attorney without having gone to law school and without passing the Bar exam. So you would essentially need to dedicate yourself fulltime for three years to law school to become an attorney.
But many people think they have to go to law school when really what they want is just a job in politics. And if you want a job in politics, you then need to ask yourself what kind of job you want in politics. In other words, if you want to be a researcher, somebody who either works in academia or at think tanks, then really what you need is a theoretical degree and those theoretical degrees are Political Science Masters or Public Policy Masters. You might also look at a Public Administration type degree.
All of those are researching type degrees. They are theoretical in the sense that they are asking individuals who have them what are the causes for these things, these phenomena that we see and/or what are the policies that should be essentially followed or adopted to fix those problems that we see.
There are a lot of what we call why and what questions that are involved in political science and public policy. But if you are not interested in being a researcher, working at a university or in a think tank or a place like the Congressional Research Service, if you are somebody who actually wants to be essentially an externally facing individual who’s engaged in politics either as a communications director, as a public affairs manager, as a government affairs director, any of these sort of externally facing development director positions, that’s actually what we teach students to do and train them to do and there are dozens of different job titles and really career professions that are related to this. The whole burgeoning area of digital directors and digital communications managers, crisis communication managers, those are all sort of fitting underneath the Masters in Political Management and our degree will help you develop your work toward that area.
We do have obviously, some application requirements for admissions to our graduate school. The great news is it’s an online application form so it’s fairly easy to complete. It does require your official transcript, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume. There’s of course, an application fee that pays for all of the work that goes into reviewing these applications. And then the great news about our school is, unlike other graduate schools that are focussed on sort of the theoretical aspects and the deep research side of politics, we are not as interested in that and so it is true that our students do not need, if they have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above to take the GRE.
As I said we are much more interested in those who work, not just essentially those who research. And those are the admissions requirements. We certainly have admission advisor who can assist you with that. Lalitha’s email and phone number are on this slide and you may discuss with her what the process is and what you need in your specific situation. If you’re interested in coming to campus Lalitha will put you in touch with Jonathan McGee who is in our office here in Washington and help students find their way through the application process.
We are accepting applications and we will for another, gosh, about another month and our spring term does start January 17th. We do have three starts to our year. Essentially we start in January, in May, and then again in late August. Though you are able to start at any time that really works with your schedule. As you might imagine the January start after a Presidential election year is usually an exceedingly large group of people who come to us because they’ve been engaged in politics and want to continue their work after the presidential elections and we are here to help you if you’d like to make an appointment, please do that.
And at this point I’m just going to take a few questions.
Moderator: Perfect. Thank you Lara. So there are couple of questions that have come in.
One is from Pillar, he is wondering especially nowadays with Social Media analysis, real time polls and everything in consideration that defines the media – to what extent do you think the substance in the debates actually matter nowadays?
Dr. Brown: Well, this is partly what I was really talking about which is, at the end of the day, what actually happens in the debate isn’t necessarily important to the judgement about the debate. And this is where it is really fascinating because what is more important is essentially who’s perception of what happened relates to those prior debate narratives and essentially helps to crystallize the judgement in the aftermath to the debate.
Moderator: Thank you. And going back to the program itself, a question from Tyler, and I think this is pretty interesting if you could expand a little bit more in general about our Global Residency Program. So in particular, is that only available for online students and do the credits actually apply to the thirty-six of the overall program credits?
Dr. Brown: Right. So all of our students here at George Washington University are able to essentially sign up and take a Global Perspective Residency. For those of you who do not know what that is, what it is, is basically it’s a hybrid course where, depending on the course itself, four to five weeks of the course are essentially online and then there is a one, sometime two week immersion in a capital city, so either like Washington, DC or London, England or Mexico City in Mexico. We’ll also be going to Johannesburg in South Africa. So we tend to go to these places and then have a week-long immersion there where what is taught and what is understood is essentially how does one advocate in that location in that country in that capital city.
And yes, when a student essentially signs up for those Global Perspective Residencies those three credits can be applied as an elective to their Political Management Degree. So, it’s a process to go about kind of taking one of those, but it’s not a very long or involved process and yes, those credits will count.
Moderator: Okay. Thank you. And someone has a follow up question actually. You might have touched this a little bit already but he really wants to know, a follow up to what the substance being important these days, does that mean then the campaign managers, how they operate, the media is really the important kind of factor nowadays.
Dr. Brown: Well, absolutely. I mean I would say that one of the things that’s so important is that the campaign managers, you know, do some of what actually you saw Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager do on the Miss Universe issue. Right? So Hillary Clinton in the debate essentially lands this attack on Donald Trump saying that he has referred to, you know, a former Miss Universe as Miss Piggy. He commented on her weight and shortly after that, right, Donald Trump was surprised that she’d even brought it up. Though from what I understand this was a really a well known controversy when it occurred and she essentially said that, you know, like she went after him. Donald Trump said how did you get that? And then her campaign basically released the very next day, right, essentially an advertisement with this former Miss Universe endorsing Hillary and attacking Donald Trump. Donald Trump was then obviously confronted on this issue on Fox and Friends when he went on the next morning and in fact he doubled down on it.
So what it really means is that the campaign did all of the work and they prepared Hillary Clinton and they prepared the materials and the collateral that they needed to make sure that that attack not only landed but also became news. And this is where I would argue that campaign managers are incredibly important because campaign managers need to, not just figure out what attacks are going to be effective, but they also need to be ready to prepare for the attacks that might come and figure out ways and strategies that the candidate can or move around those kinds of issues.
Moderator: Thank you Lara. Pillar, I hope that answers your question. And Don here did mention the question and I thought we did address it through the presentation. So Don here has a question just in general regarding, today we are focusing on, you know, how the media is judging the debate, so his thought is, shouldn’t our focus be on the voting public, you know, versus the media in general?
Dr. Brown: Well, I mean part of what this research is really all about is that political science shows that public opinion about the debate only changes after essentially the media commentary has crystallized and the media have argued who has won or not. So what this really means is that if you want to understand how the debates are going to impact the general public, what you actually have to understand is how the media judged the debates, because if you understand what the media are going to say, then you know how the public will be impacted.
And so what our work has been is not been about trying to understand how the public looks at the debates because all of the political science research for twenty, thirty years has essentially shown that partisans are the ones who tune in and watch the debate and they are not influenced by what happens in the debate. They argue for or against the candidate they already liked prior to the debate even after and essentially the only way the people who didn’t tune in or who are undecided about the candidates make their decisions is really based upon what the media say happened at the debate. And the media don’t, as my colleague and I looked at and discussed, don’t essentially judge debates fully objectively. They judge them in relation to the narratives that are constructed prior to the debate.
Moderator: Right. Thank you so much Lara. And I know we’re a little bit overtime in terms of the hour so again I just want to remind everyone that there’s opportunity to follow up on any questions that you might have from this webinar, you can directly contact Lalitha.
So, thank you again Lara. And I hope everyone has enjoyed this fascinating presentation today and we look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr. Brown: Thank you so much.
Moderator: Thank you so much everyone.