Growing up with politics

At the age of 12, Susan MacManus volunteered for her first campaign by helping a neighbor who was running for the Pasco County School Board.

It is no surprise that MacManus, a political science professor at USF, got involved in politics as a child.

While living in Pasco County, politics always played a big role among her citrus-raising family in a bipartisan household. MacManus said it was this upbringing that brought her into politics.

“We always talked politics and I always liked it from the time I was young,” she said.

Now, her expertise as a political analyst in government and public opinion has led to appearances on ABC, NBC, FOX, CNN and C-SPAN. In addition, the St. Petersburg Times recognized MacManus as the most quoted political scientist in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election.

For nearly 17 years, MacManus has been a professor of public administration and political science in the government and international affairs department.

She still keeps close to her roots by living in her grandmother’s house, where the smell of oranges, she says, still makes her appreciate the “real” Florida every day.

“When I walk outside my back steps and smell the oranges … it’s terrific,” she said. “I played in my grandmother’s yard with all my cousins my whole lifetime and from the time I was young I loved politics and sports.”

MacManus has authored three books, including one recounting her experiences while growing up in Pasco County, which she co-authored with her mother. Another book informs Florida citizens, politicians and the media about the redistricting process in the state. Most recently MacManus wrote a book focusing on intergenerational politics and the potential problems seniors and disabled people might be faced with when voting.

MacManus said she was inspired to write her second book, Targeting Senior Voters, after realizing some of the difficulties her parents faced in staying informed about politics.

“I surveyed older people to see what ads they could and could not see and how politicians could better get their message out to older people,” MacManus said. “That was the book that predicted that older people would have trouble with punch card ballots before the election came along.”

In 1998, MacManus was selected by Gov. Jeb Bush to head up the Health Services Policy Transition Team.

“(Bush) said he selected me because of my research on seniors,” MacManus said. “Obviously, health care issues in (Florida) are heavily affected by (its) large senior population. And it was interesting to take a look at the details of the state’s help programs for all ages, but particularly for the older population.”

MacManus’ fourth book will be out in January of next year, just in time for the 2004 election. The book divides Florida into 10 media markets and analyzes how each of the 10 different parts of Florida vote, MacManus said.

“Really, Florida is 10 states in one,” she said. “All (10) parts are different, which makes it a challenge to try to figure out a way to carry the whole state.”

MacManus, who received her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in political science from Florida State University in 1975, is a member of the League of Women Voters, the Florida Political Science Association and was the former president of the National Political Science Association.

The National Political Science Association chapter on campus is active MacManus said. The chapter will help Student Government organize a straw poll for the presidential race in January.

MacManus added that young voters are paying more attention to politics since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“(Young people) are paying more attention because their futures are very much affected by what politicians do and how a country deals with security threats to (their) nation,” she said.

As a professor, MacManus inspires many in and out of the classroom. One of MacManus’ former students, Michael Greenman, a public administration graduate student, also helped MacManus edit a chapter for a book called Midterm Madness, said working with her helped him tremendously in terms of firsthand experience in the political science arena.

“She’s very in touch with students. Better than other professors. I learned so much from her in the professional sense,” Greenman said. “Just being in the same room with her is better than any internship (a student) can ever take. She’s (been) the most valuable professor in my college career.”