Rachel Bitecofer, Ph.D.


Christopher Newport University

Phone: 541-729-9824

Country: United States (Virginia)

About Me:

Rachel Bitecofer is assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, where she teaches classes on political behavior, campaigns, elections, and political analysis and conducts survey research on public policy issues and election campaigns. Her work and analysis has been featured in many media outlets such as The New York TimesThe Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, and she is a contracted commentator on CBC Radio. Her book, The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election (Palgrave McMillan) is available via Amazon. Her unique election forecasting model accurately predicted Democrats gaining 42 seats 5 months before the 2018 midterms.

Research Interests

Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Public Opinion

Political Participation

Specific Areas of Interest

Election Forecasting


Political Psychology

My Research:

Her innovative election forecasting model predicted the 2018 midterms five months before Election Day, far ahead of other forecasting methods. Her forecasting work is based on a theory of voter behavior which argues American elections have become increasingly nationalized and highly predictable; with partisanship serving as the dominant vote determinant for all but a small portion of Americans. Rather than a relatively fixed pool of voters rewarding or punishing the parties for their platforms or performance, recent swings in the electoral performance of the parties is the product of the ebb and flow of turnout among key elements of each party's coalitions; mobilized or demobilized by gaining or losing control of the presidency. Voters from the party out-of-power, galvanized to vote by negative partisanship, increase their turnout in subsequent elections, while turnout from the party in power wanes. The electoral fortunes of the opposition party are also improved by the movement of pure Independent voters away from the party in power due the hyperpartisan and negative political environment. Her 2020 presidential forecast can be found here. In addition to this work Bitecofer has several ongoing projects including one that looks at the ability of elite partisan cues to move public opinion from supporting a policy to opposing it (or vice versa), one that examines the role geographic proximity to negative externalities of climate change plays in mitigating partisan attitudes towards the issue, a paper looking at sexism in the way voters assess Hillary Clinton's qualifications for office, a book manuscript looking at the role the campaign industry has played in fostering polarization, and a paper looking at the increased reliance on ideological justifications in how voters assess Supreme Court nominees.


Books Written:

(2018) The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election, Palgrave Macmillan

Tags: Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Political Participation, Public Opinion

This book explains the 2016 presidential election through a strategic focus. In the primaries both parties faced challenges from insurgent outsiders riding waves of populist fervor in the electorate, but only the Democrats were able to steer the nomination into the hands of their establishment favorite. Why weren’t Republican elites able to stop Donald Trump from hijacking their party’s nomination? Why did Hillary Clinton come up short on Election Day despite the fact that nearly everyone expected her to win after her opponent ran a haphazard campaign plagued by scandal after scandal? The research presented here argues that the Clinton campaign conducted the nearly perfect execution of the wrong electoral strategy, costing her the Electoral College and her chance to become America’s first female president.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2018) CBC Television

Analysis of the Putin-Trump Summit

(2016) WAVY 10

Exclusive: CNU's Dr. Rachel Bitecofer talks election results

(2016) WAVY 10

CNU pollsters prepare presidential poll

(2016) Arlington TV

Explaining political polling and election forecasting

(2016) FOX 5 DC

Presidential word clouds

Radio Appearances:

(2017) NPR

Drama Plays Out in VA's 94th

(2017) NPR

Court Challenge Delays Drawing to Decide Virginia House Race

(2017) NPR

Live election night analysis for the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race

(2017) NPR

Win My Vote: Virginia’s Upcoming Election

(2017) NPR

The Role Of Populism In Virginia’s 2017 Gubernatorial Race

(2017) NPR

Join host Cathy Lewis as she sits down for a conversation with Macon Brock, Dollar Tree chain co-founder, about his legacy and book, One Buck at a Time: An Insider's Account of How Dollar Tree Remade American Retail. Later, she'll talk with Dr. Rachel Bitecofer about her new book The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election. We'll also check in with Mal Vincent and find out what's going on this week in Mal's World.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2017) The Daily Press

National Spotlight Shines on Newport News' 94th District


(2018) The Washington Post

On the “flip list”: Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock

(2018) The New York Times

The Midterms Really Are Looking Good for Democrats

(2018) USA Today

Op-ed on the Alabama Senate Race

(2018) Various

For a full list of my media appearances please see http://wasoncenter.cnu.edu/wason-in-the-news/ and http:rachel.bitecofer.com

(2018) HuffPost

Provides an overview of how Doug Jones could become the first Democrat to win an Alabama senate race in 25 years.

(2018) Huff Post

Jones’ uipset victory in the Alabama senate race was powered by a surge in turnout in Democratic voters, with a little help from Nick Saban fans.

(2017) Washington Post

How to win elections under Trump? Democrats may have figured it out. With Quentin Kidd

(2017) The Richmond Times Dispatch

Rachel Bitecofer column: All about the base: Clinton blames the players, but her real problem was the play

(2017) VCU People's Debate

Rachel predicts the 2017 Virginia wave