Using Behavioral Science to Make Sense of 2020 (and 2018 and 2016)
Pete Brodnitz is the founder of Expedition Strategies, a strategic opinion research company that is based in Virginia and operates worldwide. He brings more than two decades of experience using public opinion research to guide communications campaigns. Mr. Brodnitz’s work has included acting as strategist to 14 heads of state and governments worldwide. His clients include five sitting U.S. Senators: Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine of Virginia, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, and Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. In 2014 he worked to elected Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island. She is the first woman to hold that office and one of just three female Democratic Governors in office. In 2018 he helped Governor Raimondo to win re-election and helped then-Congressman Tim Walz to win election as Governor of Minnesota. In 2020 he worked for Senator Michael Bennet’s campaign for president. His work in 2020 also included a variety of initiatives, independent efforts to support Democratic candidates for Congress through groups such as House Majority PAC and With Honor, and the re-election efforts of Senators Coons and Merkley. Mr. Brodnitz’s international work includes the 2010 and 2014 elections of President Santos of Colombia and the 2012 and 2016 elections of President Medina of the Dominican Republic. In 2007, the American Association of Political Consultants named Brodnitz “Pollster of the Year” — the top honor in the political polling profession recognizing success and innovation in U.S. campaigns — for his work on two upset victories in Virginia, those of Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005 and Sen. Jim Webb in 2006. The strategy used in these campaigns helped create the strategic roadmap that changed Virginia from politically “red” to “purple” and set the stage for President Obama’s wins there in 2008 and 2012.
Abstract: This lecture will focus on how behavioral science concepts such as heuristics, prospect theory, hindsight bias, and others can be used to understand the 2020 elections. The lecture will also cover how these concepts help explain both the 2016 and 2018 elections. The goal of the lecture is to use these elections as examples of how behavioral science ideas can be applied by both political analysts and strategists to understand both past and future campaigns.