Pennsylvania and national pollster and political historian G. Terry Madonna doesn’t shoot from the hip, opine, or waste people’s time.
Those who listened carefully to the Contemporary Issues Forum lectures Madonna presented in the Hall of Philosophy in 2015 and 2016, and the Q-and-A sessions that followed them, were not terribly surprised by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
At 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 25, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Madonna will speak about “The Politics of a Divided America: The Factors that Will Matter for ALL Voters in the 2020 Election.” His lecture will conclude the Chautauqua Women’s Club’s 2020 Contemporary Issues Forum.
This talk was recorded prior to the 2020 Democratic and Republican conventions. Although Madonna has since watched the virtual Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention will have aired for just one evening before his live Q-and-A session on Aug. 25.
“It’s hard to remember when I started (going to the conventions),” he said. “I think I’ve been to about 13 of each. … We’ve never had virtual conventions. I miss the live interaction — the confetti, balloons, floor activities, and exhilaration. It’s just not quite the same.”
Madonna said he began attending both conventions well before 1992, when he founded the oldest poll directed and produced exclusively in Pennsylvania.
Originally called the Keystone Poll, this statewide survey was renamed the Franklin and Marshall College Poll four years after he left Millersville University in 2004 to join the faculty of Franklin and Marshall College. Both institutions are located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
When F&M partnered with Hearst TV in 2008, Madonna added national polls. Housed within the College’s Center for Opinion Research, directed by methodologist Bernard Yost, the “F&M Poll” is also used in government courses as a tool for teaching survey methodology and research design, including proper interviewing techniques.
Lest anyone think that Pennsylvania is but one of several swing states and relatively unimportant nationally and globally, Madonna knows differently.
“About 16 years ago, Europe and the world began paying much more attention to Pennsylvania politics,” he said four years ago. “I’ve gotten huge interest in American politics from all over the world. I’ve noticed this trend since the beginning of the 21st century. I’ve been doing this since 1986.”
At F&M, Madonna not only directs its state and national polls, but also its Center for Politics and Public Affairs. Having earned his Ph.D. in political history at the University of Delaware — where he and Joe Biden shared the same adviser but did not overlap or know each other — he is also a Professor of Public Affairs. He has taught and written about his academic specialties — the U.S. presidency, and American political parties and political behavior — for 35 years.
Madonna has authored numerous publications and books about American history, government, and politics, including Political Pennsylvania: The New Century, with Michael Young, and Pivotal Pennsylvania: Presidential Politics from FDR to the Twenty-First Century.
The pollster for several media outlets across Pennsylvania, and a frequent contributor of political analysis and public affairs commentary to Pennsylvania and national newspapers, television news programs, political websites, and radio stations, Madonna is also co-author (with Young) of the bi-weekly political commentary column “Politically Uncorrected,” and the host and moderator of “Pennsylvania Newsmakers” each Sunday morning on WGAL-TV, for which he is also a regular analyst.
“I’m not in the prediction business,” Madonna said. “I just talk about advantages and disadvantages.”
Thus, during the pre-recording of his Aug. 25, talk, he “explained factors that led to Trump’s Electoral College victory (and) why Hillary won battleground states.”
“I (then) segued into the 2018 election,” Madonna said. “The Democrats won 41 seats in the House; they netted 40. They won suburbs across the country, essentially because of the white, college-educated women’s vote and also millennials.”
In addition, he discussed the records of Biden and Trump; how both are doing in rural areas and small towns, cities, and suburbs of battleground states; Trump’s “Rust Belt” strategy and campaign; the importance of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy in this election; and measures used in polls, including “enthusiasm” and “why” people vote for one candidate versus another.
During the final days of the 2020 election, candidates are continuously being covered in the media and pollsters are continuing to conduct surveys. Although an F&M Poll was released on July 30, Madonna said that another poll will be out on Thursday, Aug. 27 — just two days after his Contemporary Issues Forum remarks will first be aired. Afterwards, during his Q-and-A, he might be persuaded to provide a sneak peak.
Madonna’s polls — including those issued during the two months after the 2020 CHQ Assembly ends — will provide valuable insight into Pennsylvania voter sentiment about state issues and President Trump’s job performance, and Pennsylvania voter interest and intentions.
Because he focuses on a key battleground and Rust Belt state, and on factors of consequence to all voters, for Chautauquans who pay attention to Madonna’s words and work, the outcome of the 2020 presidential election may not be much of a surprise this November.