Political Science students present at state conference

Mar 13, 2022 | Liberal Arts, Research, Students

Two Louisiana Tech University students presented results from their research projects at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Louisiana Political Science Association at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

Sarah Szwak, a senior Political Science major, and Caroline Clifton, a senior Political Science and History major, presented at the conference, which featured research presentations from political science faculty and students from throughout Louisiana on a wide variety of topics.

Szwak’s presentation, “Female Candidates and Their Effects on Media Production,” argued that the number of female candidates in a given congressional election impacts the amount of local media produced about that election.

Using data from 2020 elections, she found that elections with two female candidates were associated with significantly more media produced compared to elections with zero or one female candidates.

Clifton presented on “The Effects of Gerrymandering on Voter Turnout.” Her argument explored how the ways in which congressional district boundaries are drawn influences electoral competition and subsequently influences voter turnout.

She measured electoral competition and voter turnout in 2018 congressional elections and showed that decreasing competition indeed decreases turnout.

Szwak and Clifton began developing their research during the Scope and Methods in the Social Sciences course as part of their major. Students in the course choose a research question of interest and proceed to write a complete research article.

Their learning process included synthesizing scholarly literature, developing a novel theoretical argument, collecting appropriate quantitative data, and using the statistical programming software R to test their argument using the data collected. Both students continued to finalize their articles to be ready to submit to the conference after the course was completed and practiced delivering a professional conference presentation.

“Sarah and Caroline should be extremely proud of the creative and innovative research that they have conducted and described in their conference presentations,” said Dr. William O’Brochta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, who taught the course, mentored both students, and also attended the conference. “Faculty from other universities at the conference were very complimentary of both their research and their presentations. The fact that they were both able to complete such theoretically and technically complex research projects is a testament to their dedication and skill.”

Both Szwak and Clifton are planning careers as attorneys and will be attending law school starting this fall.