How the 2016 Election Impacted Political Science Students

voter with ballot

We may never again experience an election cycle quite like the 2016 campaign, and there may never be a more interesting time to be a student of politics. In the online classroom, Ashford University Political Science and Government students are engaged in lengthy debates over the qualifications of presidential candidates, their trustworthiness and charisma, and they’re asking each other whom to trust and who will get the job done. In the coming months, they’ll focus on which candidates present the most persuasive arguments, who can escape their negative baggage, and who can provide the voters with what they want most.

Changing Politics as We Know It

Whereas the election cycle discussion traditionally focuses on issues and personalities, the current campaign has changed politics as we know it. The presidential election has seen a rise in negative coverage, and now includes discussions of demagoguery, race, nationalism, bigotry, corruption, misogyny, inequality, political qualifications, political correctness, fact checking, and secrecy at a much shriller and more critical level. Name-calling and personal attacks on character, temperament, and competency are reaching levels of negativity never seen before.

Current Events in the Classroom

Current events bring the online classroom to life. They are the fodder for conversations and debates, and they are the seeds for critical thinking questions. Students thrive when current events are injected into the conversation – when an instructor can encourage them to relate political issues to current challenges. The responses bring relevancy and validity to the course.


The current election cycle offers opportunities to discuss a critical presidential election, elections in the House and Senate, and a chance to observe high-level political behavior firsthand. The violent/non-violent change in power and authority as a result of our democratic processes can be examined firsthand and as a current event. Students are also seeing the practical and creative uses of new media by the candidates, and how journalists, candidates, and the electorate deal with the controversial issues that emerge during elections. There is little doubt that, at the end, racial, economic, ethnic, environmental, religious, and political policies will dominate discussions at one time or another in our classrooms.

Learning New Lessons

As a result of what develops daily on the campaign trail, students are learning that democracy can be messy and ugly, but effective. In the online classroom, they’re seeing firsthand that courses are not static presentations of past political theories and concepts, but are instead directly linked to their lives and how they will be impacted by political outcomes and elections. The political paradigms they learn are not moldy, useless tools of academic tail-chasing. They are, in fact, consistently showcased in political campaign behavior. Students take away the enormous influence of politics and the pervasive nature of political decisions in everyone’s life.


Written by John Ackerman, Ph.D., Gabe Jolivet, Ph.D., and Jason R. Latham.


John Ackerman, PhD is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Government and Core Faculty in Ashford University’s College of Liberal Arts.


Gabe Jolivet, PhD is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Government and Chair of the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government degree program in the College of Liberal Arts at Ashford University.<.p>


Jason R. Latham is the Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.


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