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Ursinus Scholar Explores Issues that Shape American Politics

As November’s midterm elections loom, Ann Karreth highlights the most salient issues in American politics today.

The 25 Issues that Shape American Politics: Debates, Differences, and Divisions (Routledge, 2017), examines the key issues that reflect the ideas, principles, concerns, fears, morals and hopes of the American people. Karreth, an assistant professor of politics, co-authored the book with her father, Michael Kryzanek, a professor emeritus of political science and special assistant to the president at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Mass.

The book, Karreth says, is meant to be an educational tool for a general audience and students, rather than an opinion piece on various policy debates, describing in detail where on the topics political parties are divided.

It’s an important and useful resource, she notes, as misinformation and distrust continues to take hold and shape political opinions.

“The general public could use more information about these particular policy areas, what the major fault lines are, and how these debates develop,” Karreth says. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. The role of social media has helped to obscure a lot of the relevant facts that shape these debates. People so easily retweet information and share memes without being educated about these issues.”

The book is an update to one Kryzanek wrote more than a decade ago during George W. Bush’s administration. The authors began writing this new edition during the Obama administration and, after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, policy priorities shifted.

“As I was writing, I remembered thinking that China would be a hot-button issue,” Karreth says. “It still is to some degree, but immigration has taken a more forward role in divisions in this country, as well as healthcare, and globalization has come to the forefront in ways that I didn’t expect with respect to free trade. Those are the most hot-button topics.”

Other issues Karreth says are most important to the American public are LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights, noting that “social issues are issues that Americans are most passionate about and most informed.”

The authors argue that these issues are the heart and soul of the American political system, serving as the basis for the disagreements that drive citizens, public servants, and elected officials into action.

“Some of the issues have remained the same over the last 10 years or so, but the players have changed,” Karreth says. On foreign policy in particular, she notes, “It’s been interesting to see how different administrations can take a drastically different direction in terms of acknowledging a problem and in engaging with international institutions to find a solution.”

“As soon as new people with different philosophies come in to power, you can see policy making a one-eighty,” she says. “That will be interesting to watch moving forward as well.”

Karreth teaches courses in comparative politics, African politics, political behavior and political economy in developing countries. Her core research focuses on ethnic diversity, political behavior and development outcomes, with a regional emphasis on the African continent. She received her bachelor’s degree from Boston College and her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia.  —By Ed Moorhouse