Rachel Bitecofer is assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, where she teaches classes on political behavior, elections, & political analysis and conducts survey research and elections analysis. Her research has been featured in many media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, and she is a contracted commentator on CBC Radio. Her book, The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election (Palgrave McMillan) is available via Amazon.
Her innovative election forecasting model predicted the 2018 midterms five months before Election Day, far ahead of other forecasting methods. Her forecasting work argues that American elections have become increasingly nationalized and highly predictable; with partisanship serving as an identity-based, dominant vote determinant for all but a small portion of Americans. Rather than a relatively fixed pool of voters rewarding or punishing the parties for their platforms or performance in office like elections of the past, the two party’s electoral fortunes rise and fall with the ebb and flow of turnout among key elements of their increasingly fixed coalitions; mobilized or demobilized by gaining or losing control of the presidency. Voters from the party out-of-power, galvanized to vote by negative partisanship, increase their turnout in subsequent elections, while turnout from the party in-power wanes due to complacency. The electoral performance of the opposition party is also improved by the predictable movement of pure Independent voters away from the party in power due the hyper-partisan and highly-charged negative political environment. The size of the “swing” of pure Independents is conditioned on economic conditions or on other “shocks” to the political system such as unpopular wars or unpopular incumbent presidents. Her 2020 forecast debuts July 1ston the Wason Center website.
In addition to this work Bitecofer has several ongoing research projects nearing completion including one that looks at the ability of elite partisan cues to move public opinion from supporting a policy to opposing it (or vice versa), one that examines the role geographic proximity to negative externalities of climate change plays in mitigating partisan attitudes towards the issue, a paper looking at sexism in the way voters assess Hillary Clinton’s qualifications for office, and a book manuscript looking at the role the campaign industry has played in fostering hyper-partisanship and polarization.