Rockefeller Center Co-Hosts Midterm Election Event with UNH Carsey School

On Monday, October 24, 2022, senior data reporter for CNN Politics and Dartmouth alumnus Harry Enten '11 joined the Rockefeller Center and the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy in a joint event titled, "Implications of the 2022 Midterms on the 2024 Election Cycle." Enten virtually joined a live stream between students at both schools.

Dartmouth Professor of Government Dean Lacey introduced the event, noting at the outset the key American political dynamics that are reflected in this year's midterm elections. Professor Lacey noted that the President's party typically fares worse in midterm elections, and most experts predict an even Senate and a flipped House come this November. From UNH, Political Science Professor Emily Baer joined Professor Lacey in moderating the discussion.

Before his formal introduction of Harry Enten, Professor Lacey shared with the audience in Rockefeller Center Room 003 that Enten once sat in that very room, as an eager student of government while at Dartmouth. After leaving the College, Enten became involved in data-driven journalism before it gained the traction it has today, as Professor Lacey noted. After leaving his first job at FiveThirtyEight Politics, Enten joined the team at CNN Politics in 2018, where he has since worked. 

In his opening remarks, Enten began by acknowledging New Hampshire's political importance, encouraging students in the audience to pursue opportunities and become involved in local campaigns. Moving on to his own predictions for this year's midterms, Enten emphasized the uncertainty of politics. Enten warned the audience never to count any candidate out — there may be a favorite in any given race, but one's confidence interval is 99 percent at best, an idea he referred to as "fat tails,". Enten joked that this was something he recalled from his Government 30 course with Professor Lacey while at Dartmouth. 

Enten admitted that he had no clear idea which way this year's elections will go, given the level of polarization right now and the narrow margins of the last few elections. On partisanship, Enten pointed to one measure — roll call voting behavior in Congress — that is currently at an all-time high. He believes that this record partisanship will drive record turnout at the polls in November.

Members of both the Dartmouth and UNH audiences were curious about Enten's predictions for this year's elections. After stressing the importance of uncertainty in politics, Enten anticipated that Republicans will take control of the House, while the balance in the Senate remains much more interesting. He placed his net gain prediction for Republicans in the House at around fifteen to thirty seats, noting that Republicans only need five to take control. 

Several audience members had questions about election integrity, and whether or not candidates engaging in election denial will impact turnout. Noting that while most American voters believe President Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election, the majority of Republican voters do not believe this to be true. Enten suggested that this will not have a major impact on elections now, but if attitudes continue in the direction of election denialism, voter turnout may be impacted in the future.

The final major theme of the evening was political polarization. Professor Baer aptly noted that an "irony" of today's politics is the record levels of engagement despite polarization, asking Enten what his explanation for this phenomenon is. "People turn out when they think their vote matters," Enten said, sharing his conclusion that "negative partisanship" — the motivation to vote against a candidate, rather than affirmatively for a candidate — drives much of today's political enthusiasm. Though Enten was hesitant to make any definitive conclusions in his remarks, he was vocal about his belief that turnout will be high this year, and polarization will only drive turnout numbers up.

Enten's insightful remarks were well received by the audience of Dartmouth students, faculty, and Hanover community members, as well as guests at UNH, The Rockefeller Center was pleased to have Enten return to his alma mater-- albeit virtually-- as an engaged scholar of political science.