Barry McNamara  |  Published June 08, 2023

‘Obama-Trump’ Counties

Robin Johnson’s ‘Midwest Politics’ class takes deep dive into the subject.

TWELVE YEARS OF PRESIDENTS: President Barak Obama and President-elect Donald Trump smile at the W... TWELVE YEARS OF PRESIDENTS: President Barak Obama and President-elect Donald Trump smile at the White House before Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)MONMOUTH, Ill. – A group of Monmouth College political science students who looked into the regional results of presidential elections recently had their research published.

Students in Robin Johnson’s “Midwest Politics” class participated in the project, with the findings highlighted by Johnson and co-author John Austin in a blog on the Chicago Council for Global Affairs website.

Titled “Declining Midwest Communities Push Further Right in 2022 Midterms,” the blog article showed that even though working-class voters continue to be disillusioned, place-based investments can help restore confidence and heal the nation’s polarized politics.

“The 113 counties in eight Midwest states that voted for Obama twice and then Trump in 2016 remain characterized by population loss, income declines, an exodus of youth and low education levels,” wrote Johnson and Austin. “They are also much less diverse than their respective state populations.”

WHERE TO FIND IT: The Monmouth students' research was published in a blog on the website of t... WHERE TO FIND IT: The Monmouth students' research was published in a blog on the website of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, with Robin Johnson serving as one of the co-authors.After taking a detailed look at some of the dynamics in those “Obama-Trump” counties, the co-authors closed with the following point:

“Restoring confidence and optimism to residents of industrial heartland regions here and abroad can help heal our polarized politics and make it possible and easier to unite our collective citizenry around the larger challenges democracies face, such as Russia’s naked aggression and China’s increasing menacing pose on the global stage.”

“It was interesting to watch the data we spent weeks gathering from the 2022 midterm election come to life,” said May graduate Halle Majdich. “We were able to show that declining Midwest communities in the 2022 midterms pushed right, even more than previous elections. In addition, it was important for us to meet ‘real-life’ deadlines and be able to watch our project get published.”

Majdich, who has secured a post-graduate position with the Illinois Senate, added, “Professor Johnson has stated how it’s important to not only learn within the classroom but to also engage with ‘hands on’ opportunities. Each class I have taken with him, we have either worked with a political campaign or engaged with John Austin with this project.”

“We were able to show that declining Midwest communities in the 2022 midterms pushed right, even more than previous elections. In addition, it was important for us to meet ‘real-life’ deadlines and be able to watch our project get published.” Halle Majdich

Another student who praised the experience was Kailyn Gore ’26 of Marlton, New Jersey.

“Professor Johnson provided our class with an incredible opportunity to collect election data to recognize political trends in the Midwest. “I enjoyed digging through the census data and predicting data outcomes based on my experience working on campaigns. What I appreciated most from the research was being surprised that some of my predictions were wrong in certain counties across the Midwest.”

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