Is it Okay to Abstain from Voting?

Is abstaining from voting simply giving up? Although people may believe that abstaining from voting is wasting a chance to tell politicians what you think, BYU economist Dr. Joseph McMurray found the opposite to be true. In a recent study, he found that people can express themselves with parity through both voting and abstaining.

Votes

People use votes not as a tool for change, but as a “microphone for broadcasting their opinions,” said Dr. McMurray. For example, in last year’s presidential election, third party candidate Evan McMullin won 21.5% of Utah’s vote, according to the state’s Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Despite McMullin not winning the election, he served as an outlet for people to voice their disapproval of the major party candidates.

Even though votes for McMullin did not change the election results, Dr. McMurray illustrated their effect: “The biggest takeaway might be to push back on the assertion that votes have no impact when they fail to change the identity of the election winner: if office holders look at vote totals (which they clearly do) and adjust accordingly (which they plausibly might), every vote will have an impact.” 

Abstention

But what about abstention? How do people express themselves by not voting? According to Dr. McMurray, there are two reasons a person abstains:

  • People with hunches feel like they don’t have enough information to accurately vote.
  • People believe that the correct thing to do is stay in the political middle; their abstention communicates that they don’t like/support either character.

Abstention sends a different message than voting does. Dr. McMurray provided the following graph to show that the likelihood of a person voting depends on their confidence level.

voting as communicating

The x axis represents a person’s opinion about candidates while the y axis is their knowledge about them; Negative one on either axis represents an extremely liberal perspective, 0 represents political neutrality, and positive one represents extreme conservatism. The more a person knows about a candidate, and the more liberal they are, the more likely they would be to vote for extremely liberal candidate A, but if that person had a low opinion of candidate A, they might vote for candidate B in the hopes that such a vote will influence candidate A to modify their stance. By the same token, the more a person knows about a conservative candidate, and the more conservative they are, the more likely they would be to vote for candidate D, but if they had a low opinion of that candidate, they might vote for candidate C in hopes of influencing candidate D. But, when a person abstains, they may be saying that they think the correct political stance is somewhere between the two opposites, and that, even though they might have strong beliefs, they may still abstain. Dr. McMurray shows with this graph that abstention can be utilized to communicate political beliefs.

Other Forms of Involvement

The study also showed that there are other ways for people to be involved besides voting and abstention.  These “microphones,” as he referred to them, can include trying to persuade others to vote certain ways, writing letters, endorsing candidates, donating money, attending political rallies, and working campaigns. They are more likely to be utilized by those with extreme political ideologies on either side of the liberal/conservative spectrum, as this graph shows:

voting graph

Outcomes

Regarding the hoped-for outcomes of his study, Dr. McMurray says: “I  hope that [it] will convince them to also consider which electoral systems foster the most useful communication from voters to office holders.” He also hopes that looking at voter communication will provide a window into voter and candidate motivations, which in general are difficult to know, but which are hugely important for productive political analyses.

However, understanding voting is more complicated than those results would suggest. Dr. McMurray understands this and is exploring it in future papers by studying how “logical connections between issues may explain why dozens of multi-faceted issues [are] so frequently reduce[d] simply to a left-versus-right contest” and “political polarization.”

What do you think has a bigger impact: voting or abstention?

Which Historical Figure are You?

Have you ever wondered which historical figure you are? Take our quiz and find out!

What is your favorite class?

  1. Religion
  2. Clothing design
  3. Electrical engineering
  4. Business
  5. Military science

What would you do if someone disrespected you?

  1. Turn the other cheek
  2. Tell them to eat cake
  3. Think: “I’ve been called a ‘tyrant’ and an ‘uninhibited egoist,’ so I guess it’s no big deal
  4. Tweet about it
  5. Repeatedly get revenge

What is your favorite book?

  1. The Bible
  2. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Derest and Audrey Dewan
  3. Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Works by Leonardo da Vinci
  4. Anything I tweet
  5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

What do you like to do most?

  1. Following God’s will
  2. Partying
  3. Inventing things
  4. Taking charge
  5. Conquering my enemies

What is your favorite film/TV show?

  1. The Prince of Egypt
  2. Project Runway
  3. Anything but The Prestige
  4. Anything on Fox and Friends
  5. The Count of Monte Cristo

What is your relationship status?

  1. Single
  2. Married, but it’s not great
  3. Married, widowed, and remarried
  4. Married with children
  5. Widowed, and I’m not getting remarried

 

If you got mostly 1’s

Congratulations! You are Joan of Arc, fearless French leader in the Hundred Years’ War. Under her command, the nation successfully repulsed the English at Orleans. Eventually, she was captured and executed for heresy. Joan claimed that she was sent by God to help put Charles VII on the throne of France; her faith in God led her to do great things.

joan

You are a deeply religious person who is not afraid to do what’s right, even when it seems impossible. People look up to you as someone who is strong and courageous. Don’t ever change!

Joan of Arc recently participated in the History Department’s Dead Queens Debate, where she debated current women’s issues. She also appeared on Between Two Ferns.

If you got mostly 2’s

Congratulations! You are Marie Antoinette, doomed queen during the French Revolution. Known for her extravagant clothing and love of parties, this monarch was eventually executed. However, her legacy as one of the most fashionable women of her time has lasted centuries.

marie a

You are a style-savvy individual who knows how to command a room and is the life of the party. People look to you for social approval and you are always on the guest list for the most posh events.

You can learn more about Marie Antoinette by taking HIST 294 The Age of the French Revolution and/or HIST 324 France.

If you got mostly 3’s

Congratulations! You are Thomas Edison, inventor of the “commercial electric light and power system,” the phonograph, and the microphone. The scientist owned 1,093 patents. Edison took advantage of the total solar eclipse of 1878 to test his new invention, the tasimeter, to detect changes of heat during the eclipse. He viewed the eclipse as his chance to prove that he was not only an inventor but a serious scientist as well.

edison

Like him, you are an extremely intelligent person who sees things differently than others and knows how innovate. People admire your ingenuity and rely on you to make their lives better.

If you got mostly 4’s

Congratulations, you are President Donald Trump! (He’s not a historical figure yet, but he will be.) You have a passion for leading and aren’t afraid to defend your beliefs. You fight for what you want and always bounce back from adversity. Furthermore, your Twitter skills are legendary.

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If you got mostly 5’s

Congratulations! You are Olga, princess of Kievan Rus. After her husband was murdered by a nearby tribe, she took revenge multiple times, eventually subjugating the people of that tribe. Later in her life, Olga converted to Christianity and, after her death, was canonized.

olga

You feel things deeply and are fiercely loyal to those you care about. When somebody hurts them, you are personally offended. Cunning and resilient, you are someone that everyone wants on their side.

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You can learn more about Princess Olga by taking History 300: The Early Middle Ages.

Gifs courtesy of Giphy

Photo credits: Marie Antoinette, Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison, and Princess Olga.

Speaker to Present on Utah’s Hidden Diversity

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation,” said activist Mahatma Gandhi. On December 7th, Dr. Pamela Perlich, Director of Demographic Research Director at the the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, will speak on the importance of recognizing and utilizing diversity in our communities at an event titled “Utah’s Hidden Diversity, Multicultural Demography.” “Good active citizens,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, assistant director of the Redd Center, which is sponsoring the event, “need to be aware of who makes up their neighborhoods and communities, otherwise we can’t make progress towards serving and representing each other appropriately in civic life, politics, culture, etc.” The event will be held on December 7th at 11am in B192 JFSB.

Diversity

Utah is not known for its diversity. However, the state is more diverse than people realize, said Dr. Rensink. The purpose of the event is for citizens to “learn about multiculturalism, diversity, and demographics in Utah, and to come away with an understanding that Utah’s 21st century population is much more diverse than we realize.” He continues: “Utah, along with the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a remarkable demographic transition, becoming older and more ethnically diverse.  Utah County, projected to add one million residents over the next fifty years, will be especially impacted.”

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A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 58% of Americans believe that diversity makes America “a better place to live.” However, in a different Pew study, the number of Americans viewing racism as a ”big problem” has increased 8 percentage points in the past two years to 58%, and roughly doubled since 2011. America seems to be a nation conflicted about the value of diversity versus the implementation of that value in daily actions.

Dr. Perlich

Dr. Perlich holds a doctorate in economics and has worked for the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

 

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Will you be attending the event?

Photo of man with American flag courtesy of Luke Braswell on Unsplash.

Student Spotlight: Ryan Shields, Geography Whiz

In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:

ryan shields

FHSS: What’s your major?  

Ryan: Geography with an emphasis in Geospatial Intelligence/GIS.

FHSS: Why did you choose it?

Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.

FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?

Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.

FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?

Ryan: I’m the Co-President of Praemon, a student organization at BYU that provides a platform for students pursuing careers in intelligence to be published on. I’m also one of the Directors for the Foreign Service Student Organization and a member of the Geography Student Association Council.

FHSS: Any tips for getting involved?

Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!

FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?

Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manage ThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.

FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?

Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.

 

 

What can You do to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Roommate?

While each person’s college experience is unique, many share common elements, such as: navigating difficult classes, dating, and living with roommates.  The research of various FHSS professors speaks not only to the importance of building and maintain positive relationships with friends and roommates, but also provides ideas for how to do so.

Why are relationships important?

Psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad studies relationships and the effects they have on health. In a 2015 study, she found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care,)” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.

In an interview with Scientific American, the professor spoke on the importance of friendship: “[Friends] provide a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives.”

How can we improve relationships?

1. Understand that they may be struggling

In a recent Connections article, School of Family Life professors Laura Padilla-Walker, Jason Carroll, Brian Willoughby, and Larry Nelson identified the four top concerns of “emerging adults” (people between the 18 and 24) as:

  • Identity: still exploring
  • Parental involvement: transitioning to independence
  • Sexual behavior/Relationships: in light of religious beliefs and newfound independence
  • Religion/Morality: and how it relates to their worldviews

“Emerging adulthood is a unique time of life,” the researchers said, “complete with its own set of challenges and struggles, and it is important for parents, teachers, employers, and others to learn about these issues.” Understanding that your roommate may be experiencing these challenges can help you emphathize.

2. Talk with them

The Relate Institute offers the following ways to have a meaningful conversation:

  • Don’t multitask: focus on your roommate when you’re talking to him or her
  • Don’t pontificate: enter every conversation with the thought that you have something you can learn from it
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • If you don’t know, say that you don’t
  • Don’t equate their experience with yours

Following these tips will allow you to meaningfully communicate with your roommate, which will lead to a better relationship.

3. Do something fun together

rae and madiCheck out our articles on what to do during Thanksgiving break and Summer (these still apply anytime of year) for fun ideas of what to do together.

 

 

 

 

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jason Whiting, Relationship Expert

I have always loved learning, and being a professor is like getting paid to learn all the time,” says Dr. Jason Whiting, author of Love me True and one of our newest School of Family Life professors.

Research

jason whitingThe researcher studies violence/abuse, relationship education, and conflict within couples. “The family is a source of profound influence in our lives, for good and bad, and I hope to be helpful to those who are struggling. Specifically, I want to identify unhealthy ways of interacting, and offer solutions for being more kind and honest,” he says. In his book, Dr. Whiting discusses how partners can be more genuine and honest with each other.

The academician was inspired to study relationships because of his own past experiences: “Growing up in a big family left me curious about relationships: what makes some so fun, and others so frustrating? Individuals are interesting, but when you put them together into families they become even more interesting. Unfortunately, our most meaningful relationships can become damaging, and this was a very compelling issue to me: what makes intimate relationships work?

Brigham Young University

Dr. Whiting loves BYU. “I had a great experience here as a student,” he says, and have always been a fan of the mission of BYU as a unique force for good. After 16 years working at other universities, the stars aligned with what some [other] Family Life faculty here [were] doing, and what I was doing, which presented good collaboration opportunities. Also, my kids are starting to ‘launch,’ and they all want[ed] to come to BYU, so I thought I had better follow them.”

He offered the following advice to students:

  • Seek opportunities to interact with professors.
  • When choosing a course, learn about the person teaching the class, which is as important, if not more so, than the class itself.
  • Connect with faculty through office hours, and don’t be afraid to seek advice. Dr. Whiting reports that many of his most meaningful memories from BYU were those one-on-one interactions with faculty who he admired.

Welcome to BYU, Dr. Whiting!

Photo courtesy of Dr. Whiting’s personal website

Newly-Remodeled Comprehensive Clinic Means Better Therapy

“We’ve arrived; we’ve made it to the Promised Land!” said Director Dean Barley in reference to BYU’s newly remodeled Comprehensive Clinic. Opened in the 70’s, the clinic was recently updated to allow for increased patient comfort and more space for students to work. Furthermore, a new assistant director was hired, David Fawcett, who will help move the clinic technologically forward in the hopes that it will be cutting edge and better able to serve the community.

The Remodel

IMG_6911
An updated therapy room

 The much-needed remodel had been a goal for decades; limited space made it hard for students to work and sparse therapy rooms sometimes made the work difficult. Specific changes that were made include:

  • Accent walls, whiteboards, and TVs  in rooms
  • Soundproof therapy rooms
  • A mothers’ lounge
  • Increased storage and moving shelves
  • A play therapy room with a plethora of toys, a castle, and a sand table

“It’s great, [I] love it,” a student working at the clinic said. “It’s good to be back, now I have a space.”

What is the Clinic?

The BYU Comprehensive Clinic offers counseling services to members of the public in the Utah County community. It is a research and training facility where counseling is provided by graduate student interns under the close supervision of experienced faculty who are licensed therapists. In addition to therapy, the clinic offers various psychological assessment. In 2016, 1,191 people were helped at the clinic; this was higher than average, as the clinic sees 900-1,100 people a year. More than 100 therapists are employed there and oversee a multitude of graduate students. They supervise their therapy and teach them the skills they need to be successful at their work.

LDS Family Services and the Communication Disorders Department are housed in the clinic. In addition, BYU recently acquired the old seminary building adjacent to the clinic; they will host psychology students there.

IMG_6913
Panorama of the new play therapy room

Future of the Clinic

“It’s a brave new frontier,” said Dr. Barley in reference to the future of the clinic. He and Dr. Fawcett will use technology to supplement their therapeutic process so as to improve it and the flow of the treatment. To him, the remodeled clinic is truly “a dream come true.”

 

Feature image: By GreenwoodKL (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Chelom Leavitt

BYU offers an environment that is not found many other places,” says new School of Family Life professor Dr. Chelom Leavitt. “We can discuss science and social issues and still be infused with the Spirit. We have a chance to learn powerful lessons about our fields of research from the Spirit.” She intends to utilize both the Spirit and secular studies in her research on sex and relationships.

To Dr. Leavitt, research on relationships and sex is critical for a healthy society: “In our larger society and especially in media, sex is talked about as a pretty cheap thing. Hook ups, multiple partners, and personal pleasure are regularly promoted. However, as I work with couples, they often ask how they can deepen the meaning of sex and increase intimacy. I think most people are hungry for greater meaning in their intimate relationships. I examine how mindfulness during sexual experiences may provide just that. As we slow down our thoughts and remain non-judgmental, we are capable of connecting in more meaningful ways. We feel more. We are more accepting of ourselves and our partners. I love researching skills and ideas that give couples more opportunities to unify.”

Dr. Leavitt wasn’t always a researcher. She started as a lawyer, but eventually realized that many of her clients had never had the benefit of education. “Teaching and learning are blessings in our lives that help us gain a broader perspective and see clearer the issues of our day,” she said.

She offered the following advice for students: “Listen to the small promptings of what you can become. I constantly remind myself that a small amount of progress is progress, and will accumulate into great things.”

Welcome Professor Leavitt!

Halloween Costumes Based on Your Majors and Minors

It’s that time of year again, where we get to dress up as our favorite characters, monsters, or people. There are so many options that it can be hard to pick your costume. To remedy that, here are costume ideas based on your FHSS major or minor.

History or Women’s Studies

Last year, History professor Ed Stratford hosted two “dead debates,” which were fun events in which various professors acted as “resuscitated” dead U.S. presidents and queens and debated modern political and gender issues. Watch this “Between Two Ferns” parody trailers for the Dead Queens Debate for costume ideas:

 

Geography

Embrace your inner explorer and dress up as Christopher Columbus! To dress like him, you would need:

  • baggy pants, tucked into
  • white knee socks
  • floppy hat
  • long sleeved shirt
  • Long, plain vest

For some ideas on how to create simple spyglasses out of paper cups, check out this post. To see some of the maps the geography department has made of the nation, click here.

Adobe Spark (16)

Anthropology

Dressing up like an anthropology major would be very easy, if this post is any indication.

Political Science

Abraham Lincoln or any current or past American president are just a few of the options available for political science students. Here are instructions for creating President Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat.

For updates on the political science department, check out their blog.

Halloween doesn’t have to be hard; there are a plethora of people you can dress up as. So why not show some academic pride and dress up as someone from your major or minor?

Photo credits: Christopher Columbus.