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The CLASroom: Expert perspective on the future of presidential elections

June 27, 2017

Professors in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences share opinions on a range of topics in new video series

“How to register to vote?”

That was the second-most-searched “how to” question on Google in 2016. In the fast-paced age of information, people want answers now — as quickly as a question can be typed into a search engine. 

Registering to vote wasn’t the only question on society’s mind. This past election year in the U.S. elicited many different questions, from “What is a superdelegate?” to “What is the Electoral College?”

Now, professors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will answer some of these questions for the public with a new video series. The CLASroom will explore a wide range of topics from the recent election to the bee colony collapse and everything in between.

Richard Herrera, a professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, discusses the 2016 presidential election in the CLASroom pilot. Herrera, a political scientist with expertise on politics and political representation, dissects Donald Trump’s untraditional approach to presidential campaigning and offers insight on the future of presidential elections in the U.S.

“The 2016 presidential election was absolutely unique,” said Herrera, associate director of the school. “Donald Trump has no experience as an elected official and no experience as a candidate. He had no formal ties to the Republican Party. He used a completely untraditional approach, both in the primary election and in the general election against Hilary Clinton, and he won.”

Herrera notes the political party elites have run the presidential selection process since the 1820s. They have been responsible for structuring how elections take place and setting up the rules with regard to who can run and which campaigns will take place. But Trump’s campaign shattered all of it.

“Most Republican Party elected officials — senators, governors, House members — did not endorse Donald Trump. This used to be considered an essential piece of getting the nomination … yet Trump still won,” said Herrera. “He ran a campaign based on Twitter. He got his message out to his supporters and potential supporters through social media, which caught the attention of the media for free.”

Trump utilized his influence on social media along with more traditional campaign tactics, such as putting out yard signs, selling merchandise and hosting big political rallies, to broadcast his one-sentence slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

ASU Professor

Richard Herrera

“It’s a slogan that grabs people at a number of different levels,” said Herrera. “It gives the sense of we’re not where we’re supposed to be. Trump spoke to the fears of the American people with a message that we can do this and I’m the one to show you the way.”

Trump tapped into a sense of nationalism and populism among voters of different parties: Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. He made the voters feel like they mattered and had someone who could carry their message forward.

“Even if the voters didn’t trust him completely, they were willing to overlook the flaws of the candidate to say, ‘Yes, but he speaks for me,’ which is something a strong candidate has to be able to do — be trusted by the American people to speak for them,” said Herrera.

While Trump ran against a traditional candidate who was endorsed by members of her own party, his unconventional approach to campaigning, which was based solely on himself and his personality, secured the trust of voters and landed him the presidency.

What does that mean moving forward? Has the U.S. changed the way presidents are elected? 

Herrera said the way we elect presidents in the future will largely depend on the candidates who come forward in 2020, 2024 and so forth. A Trump-like candidacy is certainty open for both parties, he said, but the candidate has to have certain characteristics that will earn the trust of the American people.  

“The role of political-party elites has diminished and is less important now than it was four years ago,” Herrera said. “Donald Trump opened the way for non-traditional candidates to play a bigger role in presidential politics than they probably thought possible.”


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ASU-led study shows how working together on patrols benefits chimps

June 27, 2017

Researchers use 20 years of data from Ngogo in Uganda to explore one of most dramatic forms of collective action in mammals

When male chimpanzees of the world’s largest known troop patrol the boundaries of their territory in Ngogo, Uganda, they walk silently in single file.

Normally chimps are noisy creatures, but on patrol they’re hard-wired. They sniff the ground and stop to listen for sounds. Their cortisol and testosterone levels are jacked 25 percent higher than normal. Chances of contacting neighboring enemies are high: 30 percent.

Ten percent of patrols result in violent fights where they hold victims down and bite, hit, kick and stomp them to death. The result? A large, safe territory rich with food, longer lives, and new females brought into the group.

Territorial boundary patrolling by chimpanzees is one of the most dramatic forms of collective action in mammals. A new study led by an Arizona State University researcher shows how working together benefits the group, regardless of whether individual chimps patrolled or not.

The team — led by Assistant Professor Kevin Langergraber of ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the Institute of Human Origins — examined 20 years of data on who participated in patrols in a 200-member-strong Ngogo community of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda. The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Despite plenty of opportunities to skip dangerous patrols, males joined 33 percent of patrols that occurred when they were in the group and young enough to take part, even if they weren’t related. 

The behavior is evidence of what’s called group augmentation theory. What is good for the group is ultimately good for the individual. Some sacrifice from each member translates into a larger, safer group. By 2009, the Ngogo chimpanzees expanded their territory by 22 percent over the previous decade.

“Free riders may increase their short-term reproductive success by avoiding the costs of collective action,” Langergraber’s team wrote, “but they do so at the cost of decreasing the long-term survival of the group if it fails to grow or maintain its size; nonparticipants suffer this cost alongside the individuals they had cheated.” In short, if a member of the group doesn’t pitch in, they’re ultimately hurting themselves.

Chimpanzees are one of the few mammals in which inter-group warfare is a major source of mortality. Chimps in large groups have been reported to kill most or all of the males in smaller groups over periods of months or years, acquiring territory in the process. Territorial expansion can lead to the acquisition of females who bear multiple infants. It also increases the amount of food available to females in the winning group, increasing their fertility.

Chimpanzee in a forest

The researchers found no consequences for those chimpanzees that did not join patrols. Most studies have focused on short term benefits of cooperation, said lead researcher Kevin Langergraber, “but our study shows the benefit of long-term data collection, and also that we still have a lot to learn from these chimpanzees.” Photo courtesy of Kevin Langergraber

 Male chimpanzees are homebodies and remain in the group they were born in their entire lives. Because they can live for more than 50 years, patrolling when they’re young produces future benefits.

However, if they don’t patrol, there aren’t any consequences — no sidelong glances, snubs or being chased out of the group, said anthropologist David Watts of Yale University, who worked with Langergraber on the study.

“We know from a lot of theoretical and empirical work in humans and in some other specialized, highly cooperative societies — like eusocial insects — that punishment by third parties can help cooperation evolve,” Watts said. “But it doesn’t seem to us that chimpanzees punish individuals who do not patrol. Sometimes individuals will be present when a patrol starts, and thus have the opportunity to join the patrol but fail to do so. As far as we can see, these individuals do not receive any sort of punishment when this occurs.”

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent, but they aren’t capable of what’s called “collective intentionality,” which allows humans to have mutual understanding and agreement on social conventions and norms.

“They undoubtedly have expectations about how others will behave and, presumably, about how they should behave in particular circumstances, but these expectations presumably are on an individual basis,” Watts said. “They don’t have collectively established and agreed-on social norms.”

Humans can join together in thousands to send men into space or fight global wars or build skyscrapers. Chimpanzees don’t have anywhere near that level of cooperation.

“But this tendency of humans to cooperate in large groups and with unrelated individuals must have started somewhere,” Watts said. “The Ngogo group is very large (about 200 individuals), and the males in it are only slightly more related to one another than to the males in the groups with which they are competing.

“Perhaps the mechanisms that allow collective action in such circumstances among chimpanzees served as building blocks for the subsequent evolution of even more sophisticated mechanisms later in human evolution.”

Top photo: Two Ngogo chimpanzees out on patrol. Photo courtesy of Kevin Langergraber

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News