UW-Milwaukee Journalism Team Finds the Stories Behind the Votes

Dec 6, 2016

The recount of Wisconsin votes cast in the 2016 presidential election is continuing.  So far, the results that have been reported have shown little shift in the totals that yielded a margin of victory of around 22,000 votes for Republican Donald Trump.

And unless there is a major shift in the numbers to come, most of the storylines will remain true.  Among them - a seismic shift of votes in western Wisconsin along the Mississippi River.  It’s an area in which Barack Obama saw significant support in both of his election campaigns, but swung to Republican Donald Trump this year.

That phenomenon interested two UW-Milwaukee journalism instructors, and in turn, many of their students. Jessie Garcia, who teaches journalism at UWM, and senior Brandon Anderegg along with junior Sabrina Johnkins traveled to various sites in western Wisconsin and across the Mississippi River to northeast Iowa to produce multimedia reporting project.

For Johnkins, it was a truly eye-opening experience. "If you can take anything away from this, it's that you never really know someone until you really know someone," she says. "Because you have all these ideas of who you think these people are, and that is just not the case when you go there and talk to them."

Johnkins notes that many of the voters who supported Donald Trump in the election defied the stereotypes typically portrayed of the conservative voter. "They wanted their stories shared, and it wasn’t a story of racism, or bigotry, or homophobia that you hear over and over again.  It was a story of just hardworking Midwesterners who were facing economic struggles and stress, and they just wanted change," she explains.

The UWM group’s multimedia reporting on voters in the Mississippi River valley is expected to be available online later this week.