Todd Belt is a professor of political science at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He also serves as chair of the political science department. His research focuses on three areas: homelessness, the mass media, and the presidency.
“In terms of my research on homelessness, my co-investigator and I have collected the richest, most detailed study to date on the attitudes and opinions of homeless people,” he says. “Many are surprised to learn that homeless people have deeply-rooted opinions on the issues of the day.”
Belt says his continuing research on homelessness helps scholars and others better understand the thoughts, feelings, and opinions among homeless persons, a sizable population in Hawai‘i. He is currently preparing a book-length manuscript that combines his research findings with short essays by social service practitioners. The idea behind the book is to make it something that is not just scholarly, but also has practical utility.
“The better we understand the thoughts and opinions of homeless persons, the better we can provide services that match their needs and relieve their suffering,” he says.
In his research on mass media, his co-authored book We Interrupt this Newscast: How to Improve Local News and Win Ratings, Too (Cambridge University Press) exposes the myth that local news needs to forego serious political coverage for crime and disasters in order to earn ratings.
“A surprising finding in my research on mass media is that local news broadcasts can actually get better ratings by covering politics and policy than by covering crime and violence,” he explains, “but this coverage has to be made meaningful for viewers.”
In the field of presidency studies, Belt says his most significant contribution is his recently-released co-authored book The Presidency and Domestic Policy (Paradigm Press).
He says he is continuing work on the opportunities and constraints facing future U.S. presidents in the increasingly partisan and polarized polity.
Belt also is doing continuing work on the effects of citizen-produced comedic political images and videos on the web.
Education and accolades
Belt received his master of arts and doctor of philosophy in political science from the University of Southern California. He received the University of Hawai‘i Frances David Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2008.