Election 2016 : Battleground Ohio : Faculty Experts

Battleground Ohio - Election 2016

The race is on for the White House. For expertise on Election 2016, especially Battleground Ohio, look no further than the University of Dayton. Our faculty are available for media interviews on a variety of topics sure to be hot this election cycle — the economy, polls, immigration, campaigns, voting laws, national security and terrorism, foreign policy, and more.

In 2012, when eyes were on Ohio, media from around the world routinely turned to faculty and students at the University of Dayton for insight and stories from the Buckeye State. 

CNN, The Wall Street JournalThe Hill and many others tapped our faculty on topics ranging from how Catholic teaching should influence budget debates to how Mitt Romney should use religion to connect with voters. 

International news outlets including the BBC, ABC Australia, Mispacha (Israel), Correio Braziliense and France 24 sought our political scientists for insight on the American political system. In the final months of the campaign, local and statewide media turned to the University of Dayton faculty and students in the fields of law, history, economics, religion and more. Click here for a rundown of University of Dayton media coverage from Election 2012.

Logistics: For satellite TV interviews, University of Dayton media relations usually works through ThinkTV, local public television, whose studio is 10 minutes from campus. We can try to accommodate other arrangements in Cincinnati or Columbus, which are 60-75 minutes away.

Click one of the topics above or scroll to view our experts.

Politics, Public Opinion and the Media

Dan Birdsong

Dan Birdsong, lecturer, political science
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979, mpant1@udayton.edu

Birdsong teaches courses on American politics, the presidency, campaigns and elections, media and politics, and public opinion and political behavior. He has a background in polling and policy research. He has researched how people consume news in an era of multiple sources and new media. Do people consume a variety of news sources or do they find news that fits their thinking? Is it possible to have a national discussion on any given issue when the sources of information often disagree? He also has tracked presidential candidates' use of Twitter. Birdsong received his Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati where he worked from 2005-09 at the Institute for Policy Research on the Ohio Poll, the Ohio Health Issues Poll and the Greater Cincinnati Survey.

Initial thoughts on Election 2016: "The 2016 election will be fascinating to watch as unlimited Super PACs bring more money into the race than before, and candidates harness social media tools to reach voters and influence the news media. Ohio will be at the heart of it all as a critical battleground state for the general election. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio, and since 1960 no Democrat has won the presidency without winning Ohio."

Vice Presidential Selection, US Presidency, Political Parties, Ideology

DevineChristopher Devine, assistant professor, political science
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979, mpant1@udayton.edu

Christopher Devine is co-author of The VP Advantage: How Running Mates Influence Home State Voting in Presidential Elections (Manchester University Press). The book uses election returns since 1884 and survey data since 1952 to show that vice presidential candidates typically do not add votes in their home states. Also, it includes chapters analyzing the electoral effect of Lyndon Johnson’s vice presidential candidacy in 1960, and how Al Gore might have won the 2000 election if he had selected New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen as his running mate.

Devine has contributed to TIME, Washington Post’s Monkey Cage and Politico. He teaches courses on the American political system and political parties, campaign and elections. His research interests also include the U.S. presidency and political ideology. He is also co-author of “The Politics of the Presidential Medal of Freedom: A Fifty Year Analysis, 1963-2013,” which was featured in The New York Times.

Voting Behavior, Public Opinion, Health Policy, Gov't Public Relations

Grant NeeleyGrant Neeley, associate professor and chair, political science
937-229-3626; gneeley1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Neeley's research interests include public opinion, voting behavior, public administration and political behavior. He also teaches classes in morality policy, public sector human resource management and has published research on concealed carry laws and traffic safety. Neeley is a public affairs officer in the Navy Reserve and has worked for the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati and the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Tennessee.

Political Parties, Interest Groups, Legislative Politics

Nancy Martorano MillerNancy Martorano Miller, associate professor, political science
937-229-4278; nmiller1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Miller's primary research interest is the state legislative process. She also conducts research in the areas of Southern politics, political parties, interest groups, public opinion and state legislative politics. She formerly served as associate editor of State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Martorano Miller has a Ph.D. in political science from Rice University.

Initial thoughts on Election 2016: "Ohio will resume its traditional role as a central battleground in the 2016 presidential election. Beyond Ohio’s important position for the big prize, the contest between incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and possibly contentious Senate races in the nation."

Unemployment, Jobs Trends, Housing Market, Manufacturing

Richard StockRichard Stock, director, University of Dayton Business Research Group
937-229-2453; rstock1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Stock is director of the University of Dayton's Business Research Group. Stock researches and monitors the Ohio economy, keeping an eye on trends in jobs, unemployment, housing sales, business and signs of recovery.

Speech and Debate Analysis, Persuasion, Communication

Randy SparksRandy Sparks, professor, marketing
937-229-2027; sparks@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Sparks is less interested in what candidates say than in how they say it. With a background in radio broadcasting and research in the art of persuasion, Sparks is highly attuned to how convincing candidates are in speeches and debates. Sparks analyzed candidate speeches during the 2008 presidential campaign and is available for morning-after comments on speeches and debates. His persuasion research has appeared in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology and The New Scientist.

Religion and Politics, Civil Discourse, Campaign Rhetoric, Debates

Joe Valenzano IIIJoe Valenzano III, associate professor, communications
937-229-2376; jvalenzanoiii1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Valenzano's research interests include rhetoric and public communication, political communication, religious communication and culture, and communication education. His doctoral dissertation focused on President George W. Bush’s use of the words "freedom" and "terror." His other research articles include: President Obama's understanding of American exceptionalism; religion in the TV show Supernatural; Pope John Paul II's death as a final homily; and Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey. He has a Ph.D. from Georgia State University in public communication.

Religion and Politics, Urban Voting Behavior

Josh AmbrosiusJoshua Ambrosius, assistant professor, political science
937-229-3924; jambrosius1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Ambrosius published "Blue City...Red City? A Comparison of Competing Theories of Core County Outcomes in U.S. President Elections, 2000-2012" in the Journal of Urban Affairs that examined voting patterns in urban areas. Ambrosius, who teaches a course on religion and politics, also examines the effects of religious structures on policy preferences and organizational attitudes.

Initial thoughts on Election 2016: "The urban electorate is identifying less and less with the Republican Party’s candidates and platform. Urban appeal should nonetheless be a key consideration for Democrats in the post-Obama age as they craft their ticket. The trends uncovered in my research suggest that Democrats will continue to paint our biggest towns blue — even if the shade is a bit lighter next time around without President Obama's urban credentials. Republicans must compensate for their deficiency in the nation’s densest counties by softening their harsh stances on social welfare policy, immigration reform, religious freedom, and same-sex marriage and diversifying the top of the ticket. While some GOP candidates may address one or two of these, others are digging in and bolstering their conservative credentials on these issues." 

Religion and Politics, Catholics' Roles in Politics and Public Policy, Consumer Culture, Social Responsibility

Vince MillerVincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
937-229-4564; vmiller1@udayton.edu
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, 937-229-3257, 937-367-2889, shindell@udayton.edu

Miller is an expert on religion and politics, religion and consumer culture, the U.S. Catholic Church's involvement in politics and public policy, social justice and public policy and the moral consequences of budgetary policies. He is author of Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture and is working on a book on the effect of globalization on religious belief. Formerly of Georgetown University, Miller has been widely sought for his comments on the global financial crisis, Catholic social teaching and the federal budget's impact on the poor.

Former Ohio Governor; National and State Elections and Politics; Education Policy

Bob TaftBob Taft, distinguished research associate
Former Ohio Governor (1999-2007)
937-229-4012; rtaft1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Taft teaches in the political science department at the University of Dayton and assists with the University's state capitol and Washington, D.C., internship programs. Before serving two terms as Ohio's governor, he was Ohio secretary of state for eight years, responsible for overseeing elections in Ohio. He serves on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission and on the board of Battelle for Kids. As governor, Taft earned a strong reputation for school initiatives and continues to monitor state and national education reform initiatives. He also leads a seminar at the Dayton Early College Academy, a charter school on the University of Dayton campus. His father and grandfather were U.S. senators and his great-grandfather was President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

Education Policy

Tom LasleyThomas J. Lasley II, professor, education
937-229-5773; tlasley1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Lasley, former University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences dean, is a nationally recognized leader in education reform and an expert on teacher education, classroom instruction and the impact of society and politics on schools. He has written several books and served on many education boards and committees including the Ohio Board of Regents Planning Committee on Higher Learning Accountability and Performance. Lasley also is the executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton, which works to ensure every child in the Dayton region is ready to learn by kindergarten and ready to earn upon graduation from college or after receiving a post-high school certificate.

Immigration, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Human Rights, Human Trafficking

Mark EnsalacoMark Ensalaco, director of human rights studies
PR Contact: Shawn Robinson, (o) 937-229-3391, (c) 937-232-2907 or srobinson@udayton.edu


Ensalaco can discuss candidates' policies on immigration and human rights (especially human trafficking), plus how they could handle foreign policy as it relates to world dictators and transitions of power (Fidel Castro). Ensalaco's focus is especially human trafficking, which is a big problem in the Midwest. He was part of a group instrumental in pushing through an Ohio bill to make human trafficking a felony in Ohio. Latin American issues are another part of his expertise, so he's very familiar with border and immigration issues.

Human Rights, Foreign Policy and International Relations

Joel PruceJoel Pruce, assistant professor, political science
PR Contact: Shawn Robinson, (o) 937-229-3391, (c) 937-232-2907 or srobinson@udayton.edu

Pruce served as post-doctoral fellow in the University of Dayton human rights studies program and before joining the faculty as an assistant professor in fall 2014. Prior to the University of Dayton, Pruce was a lecturer in international human rights at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He wrote "Spectacle of Suffering and Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia" for Media, Mobilization and Human Rights: Mediating Atrocity and "Constituencies of Compassion: The Politics of Human Rights and Consumerism" for Uses and Misuses of Human Rights.

Environmental Policy, Regulation, Accountability; Politics and Film

Michelle PautzMichelle Pautz, associate professor, political science; director of the Master of Public Administration program
937-229-3651; mpautz1@udayton.edu
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979mpant1@udayton.edu

Pautz's research focuses on environmental policy and regulation; government accountability; film and politics; and the administration of policy. She has a Ph.D. in public administration from Virginia Tech. She has worked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop and implement EPA compliance programs. She co-wrote US Environmental Policy in Action: Practice and Implementation and The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of State Regulators. Her research on the portrayal of civil servants in popular movies was reported by The New York Times, NPR's Los Angeles affiliate (KPCC 89.3), Roll CallThe Washington Times and Federal News Radio.

Initial thoughts on Election 2016: "Environmental issues are likely to take a back seat to other policy issues, despite growing movement internationally to address climate change. Although significant portions of the American public say they would like candidates to address environmental issues, candidates are unlikely to do so. A candidate's view on climate change is likely to continue to be an important litmus test with the base of their political party."