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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Seminar dissects global trends in public opinion, populism

Photo by Photo by Kevin Chou

Clifford Young, Johns Hopkins University professor and president of Ipsos Public Affairs, held a seminar at the George Bush Library this past Monday about fluctuating political attitudes in Europe and the United States.

Considered an expert on polling in emerging markets and hostile conditions, professor Clifford Young  discussed the current trends of public opinion and populism in the United States and Europe Tuesday.
The European Union Center in the Department of Political Science hosted Young’s seminar, which addressed his research on the fluctuating political attitudes around the world. Young is the President of the Ipsos Public Affairs in the United States, a leading global market and research firm, and a professor at John Hopkins University. The seminar was held at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, where Young presented the data from his research on populism and public opinion.
Young focused on how data that reveals values, beliefs and behaviors of people are changing around the world. In his presentation titled “Whether Populism or a Banana: The Rise of a New Political Super Cycle,” Young said people have many differing world and political views which play into their opinions.
“There are typically underlying driving trends, or belief systems or ideological views of the world that help organize politics.” Young said. “Over the course of time, we see that the distinction of identifying as either a Republican or Democrat is the notion on where you fall on social issues. We also have the belief in small versus big government … Republicans believe less in big government and Democrats more in big government. These are the two key dimensions that help organize politics in the United States along social factors.”
According to Young, despite an increase of party polarization, especially in the U.S., there is a common distrust in government is shared along party lines.
“There’s a strong majority belief in that ‘politicians don’t care about people like me’ across party lines,” Young said. “The American populists across party lines believe that the system is not working. We only have about 20 percent of Americans who believe that America at large is on the right track.”
Young also found in his data that similar attitudes about political instructions are reflected in European democracies, especially within the past year.
“We had Brexit that predated the outcome of the 2016 Election, which are similar. 64 percent of people in the world believe traditional politicians don’t care about them and 68 percent believe that the economy is rigged to the rich and powerful … this is all coupled with the distrust in political institutions.”
This worldwide distrust in institutions helps to explain why our world is changing, according to Guy Whitten, professor and director of the European Union Center in the Department of Political Science.
“We’ve seen in the last couple of the years that the world is in play.” Witten said. “We bring these experts here to explain what’s going on. When you are getting ready to go out in a rapidly changing world, the more information you can find out about it the better. I think that’s what this whole seminar series is aimed towards.”
Texas A&M Communication Professor, Kirby Goidel attended the lecture and said he believes these types of discussions help Americans understand themselves and the progress still needed to be made.
“Part of this is just understand who we are as a people and who we are, and how opinions and attitudes, and behaviors changed over time and what that means for the big questions about democracy.” Goidel said. “‘How informed are people? How tolerant are they?’ … You get a sense of what’s going on in the world, which helps you to sort of gage those questions to figure out just where democracy is and how strong democracy is.”
Goidel’s research focuses on topics of self-government, which requires him to address whether citizens are informed and up to task to participate in democracy or not.
“If you don’t like the answer to those questions, how can we change them,” Goidel said. “How can we make our political system better and stronger? You can see that there are lot of problems with the political system, so, we don’t have to keep it the way it is, we can always change.”

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