The past two weeks have featured massive news stories revolving around the 2020 Presidential Election, with the most recent and perhaps most striking story developing early Friday morning when President Trump confirmed through a tweet that he had tested positive for COVID-19. With less than a month to go until the election, these kinds of last-minute developments don't seem to have much of an impact on an electorate that has largely made up its mind.
"most voters are pretty locked in at this point," said Professor Grant Reheer, "people tend to dig in on their positions on either side and are pretty clear about putting themselves on one side or another."
Professor Reheer is an expert on American Politics at Syracuse University. He said that even major developments like the president's hospitalization with COVID-19 won't do much to sway a voter at the presidential level, but could have an impact down the ticket.
"The more recent events have an effect on other races down-ballot, and they do that by changing the intensity of the feelings people have about the presidential race and if those feelings are going to carry over for members of congress or other offices," said Professor Reheer.
How voters view both the president and the democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden can have an impact on local races, such as the congressional race in New York's 24th District. The district's moderate voter base means Republican incumbent Congressman John Katko will likely be relying on some voters that select Joe Biden for president. Recent attack ads endorsed by Dana Balter attempt to show a strong link between Katko and President Trump.
"The big question for John Katko... is whether Donald Trump is a heavy enough millstone hanging around John Katko's neck with him in the general election," said Professor Reheer, "the question for Dana Balter is whether voters in the moderate part of the Democratic Party and particularly independents will think that she is perhaps too liberal."
The presidential nominees will also help to dictate what issues matter most to voters, even at the local level. The president's recent contraction of COVID-19 is more likely to influence how people view the virus and local policies surrounding it than it is to have any influence on voting choice.
"The president's COVID-19 positive test may change people's individual behaviors, it may change the risk they see from COVID-19, and it may change their policy attitude from what they want to see from the government to help mitigate the spread," said Professor Shana Gadarian.
Shana Gadarian is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University. She says presidential debates can help to push certain issues to the forefront of voter's minds, which will in turn impact local races.
"That might not change your vote choice on the president because you've already decided who you're going to vote for, but it might be the way you evaluate your congressional candidate," said Professor Gadarian.
Professor Gadarian says a person's choice for president is most oftentimes informed by the political party they belong to.
"Partisanship provides a useful cue for people to not have to learn every piece of information about every candidate," said Professor Gadarian, "A good shortcut to finding out what kind of candidates share our values and support kinds of policies we might want to support."
This isn't true for every voter; there are those that don't have much loyalty to one party or the other, and there are those who are truly undecided. Still, this close to the election, the number of undecided voters is few and far between. Presidential debates and campaigns have the greatest chance of influencing these kinds of voters without party loyalty, and for those that do, can help coax them to decide to actually go out and vote.
"Information about the state of the world and whether or not people believe that they themselves can change things may make them decide if it's worth their effort to even show up and vote," said Professor Gadarian.