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MU Experts Comment on Rift in Republican Party, Chaos in General Election

August 5th, 2016

Story Contacts: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,
Jeff Sossamon, 573-882-3346,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Over the past week, Americans have seen a growing rift in the Republican Party. In an election cycle filled with conflict, within and between political parties, voters are left wondering when the “crisis” will end. Experts from the University of Missouri put the election in context and provide insight into how the growing rift in the Republican Party and the perceived trust issues for Hillary Clinton will play out in November.

“It is safe to say that American democracy is experiencing a period of crisis,” said Alasdair Roberts, professor of public affairs in the Truman School of Public Affairs. “Americans are questioning the paradigm of small government and free markets that dominated the last three decades.  But no one really knows what paradigm should come next. This crisis of ideas helps to explain conflicts in both the Republican and Democratic parties. We will continue to see a rift within and between parties until a new generation of politicians emerges who think and speak differently about challenges and solutions.”

“A big question for a divided Republicans party is how this will affect ‘down ballot’ voting, or those statewide or local races that are further down on the electoral ballot,” said Mitchell McKinney, professor of political communication, and a nationally and internationally recognized scholar of presidential debates. “If it looks as if Trump might become a ‘drag’ on down ballot races — the opposite of coattails — we may see these down ballot Republican candidates in statewide and local races begin to split from him. It will be interesting to see if these candidates begin to decline appearances with Trump on the campaign trail and whether Hillary Clinton decides to use these ‘no shows’ as fodder to appeal to independents and even Republicans who are dissatisfied with Trump.”

Roberts is a Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Public Administration and co-editor of Governance, a leading scholarly journal in the fields of political science and public administration. His book, “Four Crises of American Democracy” will be published in January.

McKinney is director of the Political Communication Institute at MU ( His research has focused particular attention on presidential primary debates, with his analysis indicating that a candidate’s debate performance at this formative stage of the campaign can greatly enhance – or hinder – one’s ability to emerge as the eventual winner.