Introduction to the Symposium on “America in the 2020 Elections”

Published date01 June 2022
Date01 June 2022
Subject MatterMini-Symposium: America in the 2020 Elections
Mini-Symposium: America in the 2020 Elections
Political Research Quarterly
2022, Vol. 75(2) 458459
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129221100999
Introduction to the Symposium on
America in the 2020 Elections
Seth C. McKee
As Forrest Gumps mama liked to say, Life is like a box
of chocolates. You never know what youre gonna get.
And so it is, when an editor places a call for a symposium
on a certain subject, in this case, America in the 2020
Elections.Political Research Quarterly (PRQ) received
many submissions for this mini-symposium and ulti-
mately accepted four articles in this issue that in some
form or fashion relate to the political status of the United
States in the unique 2020 election cycle.
Without question, a global pandemic grabbed the at-
tention of the American voter, but how political behavior
responded to this deadly threat was f‌iltered through the
partisan lens of polarized contemporary politics. But
COVID-19 was not the only issue on the minds of voters.
The shocking killing of George Floyd at the knee of a
Minneapolis police off‌icer on May 25, 2020, instantly
revived the waning inf‌luence of the Black Lives Matter
movement, making it far more popular than it had ever
been, as millions saw the video or otherwise found out
about this tragedy. As per the last 10 years or so, tech-
nological advances and the ubiquitous dissemination of
news via social media also gave rise in 2020 to more
ref‌ined strategies for reaching the American voter in the
Democratic presidential nomination contests. Finally, as
an amplif‌ied trend since the ascendancy of Donald Trump
to the White House in 2016, in 2020, America witnessed
the greatest amount of online incivility via tweets in
congressional elections since the genesis of Twitter in
The sequencing of the articles is deliberate and pur-
poseful based on the unfolding of major events in the 2020
elections. First, Brodnax and Sapiezynski (2022) show us,
with novel data from the Facebook Ad Library, that the
2020 contests for the Democratic presidential nomination
broke with precedent due to candidatesemphasis on
digital advertising targeting potential supporters and
political donors located in their home states during the
invisible primary season (pre-Iowa caucuses). Digital ads
are much cheaper than television broadcasting, and it is a
much nimbler way to reach supporters with tailored
messages seeking the two most precious commodities in
electoral politics: money and votes. The focus on home
states as a base of political support was utilized by all 26
major Democratic candidates the authors collected data
on. To be sure, strategies pivoted toward the early primary
contests (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South
Carolina) as these elections neared, but candidates
concentration on their home state as an anchor for cul-
tivating political support in 2020 has no historical pre-
cedent, and as Brodnax and Sapiezynski suggest, digital
ads may be the new direct mailin presidential
VanDusky-Allen, Utych, and Catalano (2021) provide
insight on how Democrats and Republicans in the elec-
torate viewed state-level actions geared toward handling
the novel coronavirus. With survey data and experimental
data looking at mass opinions around the initial outbreak
of COVID-19 (May 2020) and the re-opening or re-
sumption of most normal activities months later (August
2020), the authors consider the impressions of Democrats
and Republicans based on a major political cue, the party
aff‌iliation of the governor. During the early stages of the
pandemic, aff‌iliates of both parties viewed political per-
formance of their governors and the effectiveness of
policies principally through a partisan lens. Hence,
Democrats gave higher marks for the actions taken by a
Democratic governor and Republicans did the same if
they had a fellow Republican governor at the helm.
Because of the partisan division on whether to prioritize
health and safety (Democrats) or maintaining some degree
of economic sustenance (Republicans), Democrats and
Republicans made assumptions that governors of their
party responded to the health crisis with expectations
along this politicized fault line. Finally, when most states
began easing restrictions, VanDusky-Allen, Utych, and
Catalano f‌ind an interesting asymmetry in partisan be-
havior regarding evaluations of state-level responses to
the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats relied on both
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
Corresponding Author:
Seth C. McKee, Department of Political Science, Oklahoma State
University, 220 Social Sciences and Humanities, Stillwater, OK 74078,

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