With both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the rearview mirror, the 2020 election is heating up as the calendar flips to September.
The Democrats officially nominated former Vice President Joe Biden at its convention, which took place from Aug. 17 to 21. Republicans formally nominated President Donald Trump for re-election at its convention, which was held between Aug. 24 and 27. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both events were largely held virtually — though Trump did give an in-person acceptance speech at the White House in front of a live audience.
Brian Fife, a political science professor and the department chair, said viewership for each convention was down from previous election years.
“The viewership, frankly, for both parties given the context of the pandemic, was disappointing because the drop for the Democrats from 2016 was 21.6 percent and the drop for the Republicans was 28.9 percent,” Fife said. “So, when you think of some 265 million legal adults in this country, and 10 percent watched the convention approximately, it’s not very good.”
Fife believes there were differences between the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention including, among other things, diversity of speakers, location of acceptance speeches for the nominees, and length of speeches.
“The Democrats typically present a much more diverse coalition of speakers than the Republicans, which is in part a reflection of the base of their support being more diverse than the Republicans, so there’s a difference,” Fife said. “There was a significant difference, especially on the acceptance speeches of both major party nominees.”
Fife attributes some of the differences between the conventions to the order in which they occurred. He said the party that goes second has the advantage of being able to offer a response, if they so desire.
Ethan Moscot, ‘22, the president of the Lehigh University College Republicans, also saw clear differences in the two conventions. He said Joe Biden highlighted racial injustice as part of the Democratic Party’s theme, while Republicans focused on law and order as well as Trump’s economic policy.
“From my personal conversations, I would say that people are holding very strong opinions in either direction,” Moscot said. “I have more left-leaning friends and right-leaning friends. I think people are just sick and tired of just the direction our country is going.”
Hannah Kushner, ‘21, the press secretary for the Lehigh University College Democrats, feels there were structural differences within the Democratic National Convention from years past and that it produced a different verbal tone.
“Normally at a convention, you have a bunch of delegates in an arena and someone would shout on stage trying to get the people cheering or booing whatever,” Kushner said. “Because it was more intimate, it felt like they could really talk right into the camera, right into the eyes of the kind of everyday voters.”
Kushner said she appreciated that since the delegates were all in a different location during the virtual roll call vote, viewers were able to see their home states and the beauty of the country.
She also noted the amount of Republican speakers at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
“I think the goal there was, you know, to bring more Republicans who aren’t necessarily thrilled with Donald Trump over to the Democratic side,” Kushner said.
Election Day is Nov. 3. Pennsylvania voters can choose to vote by mail and must request a mail-in ballot.