Election foreshadowing? Political expert says not so fast

Elections 2022

FILE – People wait in line to vote in the Georgia’s primary election on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Atlanta. Political divides in the U.S. seem deeper than ever, but one of the few shared sentiments right now from voters of all stripes is the desire for something different. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

(NewsNation) — Hotly contested primaries across the country tested former President Donald Trump’s influence over the GOP and measured voters’ views on abortion access rights.

Tuesday’s primary races, however, may not be a particularly accurate gauge to forecast the future political climate, said Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University.

“We can’t read too much into this,” he said. “And what I mean by that is we can’t say that the pro-choice side is going to have a sweeping victory in November (or) Democrats up and down the ballot are going to win at the House, the Senate, the state-level and those type of things.”

Followers of the former president had a successful night in some states, while voters in predominately Republican Kansas rejected a measure that would have further restricted abortion access.

First-term Michigan U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer lost the GOP contest to former Trump administration official John Gibbs. Meijer was one of 10 Republicans who joined Democrats to vote in favor of impeaching Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Additionally in Michigan, conservative media personality Tudor Dixon won the GOP nomination for governor, setting up a November general election matchup against Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the battleground state.

Vote-counting continued Wednesday in the close race to determine the Republican nominee for governor in Arizona, with former television news anchor Kari Lake narrowly leading lawyer Karrin Taylor Robson.

In the Missouri U.S. Senate race, Republican voters selected Attorney General Eric Schmitt as their nominee over former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2018.

As Republicans work through what Burge called an “identity crisis,” Democrats have found themselves forced to consider the risk of promoting “fringe” Republicans in the hopes that candidates lose in the general election.

“It could backfire on them,” Burge said. “At the same time, if we want to live in a republic which is willing to compromise to get things done, the right answer is not to elevate fringe players on either side.”

People who vote in primaries tend to be more ideological and politically active on a national and local scale, Burge said. That means more conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats come to the polls, which generally see lower voter turnout as is.

“August is an odd time to have a primary anyway,” Burge said. “It’s the middle of summer. People are gone. You’re going to get a really low turnout, and when you get a low turnout, that really skews our perception of what’s really going on in the world.”

In the Kansas vote on abortion, turnout was reported to be similar to a fall gubernatorial election, with 59% of voters rejecting the ballot measure. However, it’s not uncommon for voters to support the status quo, according to Burge.

“Voters are afraid of changing anything, so whenever the status quo is keep abortion legal, you already have a natural advantage there because it’s already what we’re doing,” Burge said. “… You can actually see this between polling on abortion and actual referendums on abortion.”

A NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll conducted in June showed 66% of all Americans want to keep abortion legal in most cases.

“There’s very much the possibility that someone can go into the ballot box in November and vote for a pro-choice referendum or amendment, but then vote for Republicans at the same time,” Burge said. “I think that’s really what’s happening now. That’s what we saw in Kansas.”

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