Pollsters, journalist size up major issues in upcoming midterm elections at American Forum event
Seung Min Kim, Celinda Lake and David Winston were on hand to discuss millennial vote, impact of Kavanaugh
The American Forum, co-hosted by the Kennedy Political Union and the School of Communication on Oct. 24, explored the climate surrounding the upcoming midterms, what it’s like to cover Trump’s White House and how young people may affect the outcome of the elections.
School of Communication professor Jane Hall moderated a discussion between Washington Post White House reporter Seung Min Kim, Republican pollster David Winston and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.
“[We] hope that students have the opportunity to look into the field of political strategy and how that overlaps with the important journalism work being done across the country,” KPU said in a statement.
The three panelists answered questions from students both in-person and via Twitter.
Several SOC students in the audience had interviewed other students at AU and other local universities to generate questions that were discussed by the panelists. Topics included immigration, millennial involvement and participation in the midterms and other issues that Democrats and Republicans are grappling with this fall. The panelists also discussed the reaction to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and how it will affect voting, and the challenges and issues surrounding covering the White House as a reporter.
Lake said that one possible issue surrounding so many young, idealistic voters who vote for minority candidates is the danger of depression and disenfranchisement if and when those candidates lose. Winston added that it’s important for defeat to not demoralize voters.
“In my first campaign for the National Republican Congressional Committee, we lost 26 seats,” Winston said. “I can’t tell you how demoralized all of us were the next morning. I was trying to pick myself up off the floor. But we came back and we won with two majorities.”
Kim explained how to keep motivated as a journalist covering elections. She quoted the editor-in-chief of the Washington Post, Marty Baron, when asked about covering potentially hostile Trump rallies.
“We are not at war with this administration, we are at work,” Kim said. “I’m not interested in becoming part of the story. I care about telling the story.”
Lake and Winston weighed in on some of the pros and cons of polling, and how it can be improved, saying that the biggest issue is connecting to millennials.
“Kids need to pick up the damn phone,” Lake said.
Pollsters are working across party lines to increase accuracy and explore new approaches to polling, Winston added.
A theme of the evening was voters’ reactions to the Kavanaugh confirmation. Lake explained that some Democrats, especially new voters, were discouraged by the confirmation, but she encouraged young people not to give up.
Winston added that the Republican base was even more fired up over the win than they had been before, and that the newfound enthusiasm might have a significant impact in certain states.
In reaction to the Kavanaugh fight and the #MeToo movement, Lake said, “We want to make sure this isn’t just the year of the woman, but the decade and the century of the woman.”
Kim gave another perspective to the confirmation fight, explaining how difficult it had been to cover the tense partisan battle.
“You’re kinda telling yourself not to be you,” she said, adding that this mindset is crucial to being a good reporter.
“I really hope [the students] learned from Celinda Lake and David Winston, and that they were inspired by Seung Min Kim,” Hall told The Eagle. “I definitely hope we can do a follow-up.”