Alan Abramowitz Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science


Headshot of Alan Abramowitz 1x1  @AlanIAbramowitz

Areas of Expertise

  • National politics
  • Polling and election forecasting
  • Partisan divides
  • Political party realignment
  • Voting behavior

Overview

Alan Abramowitz, PhD, the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, is a widely cited expert on national politics, polling and elections. His expertise includes election forecasting models, party realignment in the US, congressional elections, and the effects of political campaigns on the electorate. His election forecast has correctly and precisely predicted the popular vote winner within two percentage points or less in every US presidential election since 1988. He is the author or co-author of five books including The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation and the Rise of Donald Trump (2018) and The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization and American Democracy (2010).



Commentary

Joe Biden's VP Pick: Kamala Harris (Aug. 11, 2020)

In Kamala Harris, Joe Biden has chosen a running mate who meets several criteria that he had indicated were important to his decision. First and foremost, as a former presidential candidate with extensive experience in state and national government, he hopes she will be seen as a credible potential president should she have to step into that role. The Biden campaign is probably also hoping that a relatively young, African-American woman will generate enthusiasm among younger and nonwhite voters who may not be excited about Biden himself. Finally, she is probably seen as a strong debater who can go toe to toe with Mike Pence in a vice-presidential debate. 

Georgia Primary Results (June 9, 2020)

There obviously were major problems with the voting in yesterday’s primary. There were long lines at some, but not all, polling places. Voting machines and scanners broke down or were not delivered on time. Poll workers failed to show up, leaving many polling stations short-handed. Some poll workers had difficulty operating the new voting machines. All of these problems were compounded by the closing of many polling locations and the need for social distancing at the polls due to the coronavirus pandemic and by the very lengthy ballot.  

Here’s what I think we need to keep in mind:

  • Despite all of these problems, overall turnout appears to be substantially higher than in the state primary election four years ago. The Secretary of State’s decision to mail every Georgia voter an absentee ballot application was clearly correct and resulted in a record number of voters casting absentee ballots.
  • There is no evidence that the problems that occurred yesterday were the result of intentional voter suppression — contrary to the claims being made by Stacey Abrams and some other Democratic leaders. Indeed, it is hard to know why Republican officials would want to suppress the vote in a primary election. However, the Secretary of State clearly can be faulted for failing to ensure that voting equipment was provided in adequate numbers to all polling locations and that these machines were in working condition. It certainly looks suspicious that the longest lines and waiting times yesterday appeared to be in areas with large concentrations of African-American voters.
  • It is essential that these problems be addressed before the runoff election in August and, especially, before the general election in November when the number of voters will be much larger and the stakes much higher. Given the likelihood that the coronavirus pandemic will still be affecting Georgia in the fall, and could even worsen, the Secretary of State’s office should make every effort to encourage voting by mail. 
  • Mailing every Georgia voter a ballot and not just an application for an absentee ballot could potentially go a long way toward addressing these problems. Voting by mail has been used for some time by a number of states with great success. There is no evidence that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud or that it favors one party over the other.

Given the reality that switching entirely to voting by mail is not likely to occur before the general election this year, the Secretary of State’s office and other political and civic leaders should make it as easy as possible for voters to obtain and return absentee ballots in order to minimize the number of voters casting ballots on Election Day. The Secretary of State and county officials should also make plans to ensure that these ballots are counted accurately and that results are provided as quickly as possible. 

New Hampshire Primary Results (Feb. 12, 2020)

What do you see as the key takeaways from the New Hampshire primary?

  • One is that [Senator] Bernie Sanders finished first, but his margin and vote share were a little underwhelming. His margin over [Mayor] Pete Buttigieg is going to be between 1 and 2 points, and that’s less than what the polls were saying. In the polls, Sanders was up 6 to 8 points over Buttigieg.
  • What we’re seeing now is [Senator] Amy Klobuchar and Buttigieg are benefitting from the collapse of [former Vice President Joe] Biden’s [performance]. They’re seen as moderate alternatives to Sanders. [Senator] Elizabeth Warren obviously is also in trouble after finishing fourth in New Hampshire, right next door to her home state of Massachusetts.
  • Sanders is consolidating the vote of the most progressive Democratic primary voters, and in national polling, he’s leading but it’s still under 30 percent of Democratic voters.

What will you be watching moving forward?

  • The big question is: Can Biden resuscitate his campaign in South Carolina? None of the other Democrats are all that strong there. The Democrat who’s running second there is [Tom] Steyer, mainly because he’s been spending a lot of money there. But I don’t see where he goes after South Carolina.
  • For a lot of Democratic primary voters now, it’s still about finding someone they think has a good chance to beat [President Donald] Trump. For a long time, it looked like Biden had the best shot, but when you’re doing poorly in the primaries, it’s harder to make the case that you’re the most electable candidate. So now it’s a question of whether Buttigieg or Klobuchar can establish themselves as national candidates, and whether Biden can stay in the game.
  • I’ll be watching to see what happens to Klobuchar. For Klobuchar to become a real player, she needs to raise a lot of money quickly, showing that she can compete in upcoming states, including Super Tuesday states.
  • The other thing that changes at Super Tuesday and beyond is that we have [former New York Mayor] Michael Bloomberg on the ballot. Bloomberg is working hard to court African American voters in the South and elsewhere by massive advertising and organizing.

How much will the South Carolina primary be a bellwether?

  • South Carolina will be an indication of whether Biden hang on to his African American support going into Super Tuesday, where there will be several other southern states voting. Generally, you would expect doing well in South Carolina is a pretty good predictor of how well a candidate will do in Georgia, because African Americans comprise about 60 percent of Democratic voters in both states.

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