Educated Guesses: Predictions for 2017

  • December 19th, 2016

For the 36th consecutive year, The University of Alabama’s Office of Media Relations offers predictions from faculty experts for the coming year. See our list of the Top 8 “Educated Guesses” for 2017:

For more insight into some of the thinking behind each guess and for contact information, see below. Media Relations contacts: Chris Bryant,, 205/348-8323 (print/online media); Shane Dorrill,, 205/384-8319 (broadcast media)

Trump, Congress Won’t Mix

Despite a Republican-controlled Congress, President-elect Donald Trump will find obtaining common ground with them difficult, predicts Dr. Joseph Smith, associate professor and chair of the political science department at The University of Alabama. This is partially because unified party control of the national government never works as smoothly as many people expect, and partially because Trump is outside the mainstream of the Republican Party and American politics in general. Trump’s lawmaking agenda will be stymied, the UA political scientist predicts.
Contact: Dr. Joseph Smith,, 205/534-0440

Supreme Court Nominee Could Seek to Weaken Press Freedom

Whomever President-elect Donald Trump selects as his nominee for the Supreme Court, the person could possibly help him weaken freedom of the press protections by strengthening libel and slander prosecutions, predicts Dr. Allen Linken, assistant professor of political science at The University of Alabama. Look for the nominee to also potentially seek to weaken freedom of assembly by restricting dissent by groups and freedom of expression by criminalizing flag-burning. Citizens found to be misusing any of these freedoms could, Linken speculates, lose their citizenship. Contact: Dr. Allen Linken,, 205/348-5980

Modified Medical Diets Push to the Forefront of Diet Trends

2017 will be the “year of gut health” when it comes to specialty diet trends, predicts a University of Alabama nutritionist. Though natural and organic will continue to stay relevant, modified medical diets, such as the FODMAP diet (fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) may prove to be just as trendy as going gluten-free, says Sheena Gregg. On the restaurant scene, traditional breakfast items will get an overhaul, as well as an overwhelming increase in vegetarian “comfort food” options.
Contact: Sheena Gregg,, 205/348-0205

All Shades Pink, Puffy Sleeves to be Fashion Standouts

Fashion will have more fun in 2017. Brighter colors will be abundant, with all shades of pink being the standout at most runway shows, as well as novelty prints and stripes, says Brian Taylor, an instructor in The University of Alabama’s clothing, textiles and interior design department. The 1980s will also be on trend with an emphasis on the shoulder, puffy sleeves and a boxy, looser silhouette.
Contact: Brian Taylor,, 205/348-6020

For-Profit Education Could Rise

Even as education policy has taken an increasingly conservative tack over the past 20 years, the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education radically accelerates this direction, says a University of Alabama educator. Under DeVos, education is likely to become much less “public,” enriching for-profit educational management organizations, says Dr. John Petrovic, professor of educational leadership, policy and technology studies at The University of Alabama. This will come, he predicts, with the all too familiar results of market-driven education schemes: increased stratification along socioeconomic, racial and ethnic lines with little to no closure of the achievement gap.
Contact: Dr. John Petrovic, 205/348-0465,

Twitter Practices to Continue into First Year of Trump Presidency

Since the Ronald Reagan era, the tendency for presidents of both parties has been to be as deliberate, strategic, controlled and gaffe-avoidant as possible. Speeches and statements have been thoroughly vetted through a centralized process. When presidents ventured into spontaneity, within minutes the rest of the team would be there to clarify, spin, reassure and in drastic cases – such as factual errors – retract. Dr. Stephen A. Borrelli, professor of political science at The University of Alabama, predicts that Trump will break this formulated communications strategy with a trial and error approach that includes outbursts of spontaneous and seemingly tangential messages, followed by periods of apparent thoughtful, strategic message control. Trump and his team will want to see if his Twitter approach, which apparently was less damaging to his campaign than many speculated, will survive the transition to governing and the presidency.
Contact: Dr. Stephen Borrelli,, 205/292-3264

Obamacare to Undergo Only Subtle Changes

A combination of executive and legislative actions will make subtle changes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” predicts Dr. Lawrence Powell, director of The University of Alabama’s Center for Insurance Information and Research. Such changes will move toward preferences stated by President-elect Trump on the campaign trail; however, premium subsidies for low-income families will not decrease substantially, Powell predicts. If cost sharing provisions are strengthened and/or prices become more transparent, the rate of premium increases will moderate or reverse. Legislation allowing health insurers to sell across state lines, if implemented, will not affect price or quality of health insurance in the ACA exchanges or elsewhere.
Contact: Dr. Lawrence “Lars” Powell,, 501/773-7577

Trump’s Presidency to Impact Civil-Military Affairs

Though Trump’s presidential campaign was distinctly against military knowledge, his administration nominations are packed with military leadership. For secretary of defense, he’s selected retired Gen. James Mattis. For national security advisor, he’s chosen retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. And for secretary of Homeland Security, his nominee is retired Gen. John Kelly. Dr. Allen Linken, assistant professor of political science at The University of Alabama, predicts that Trump’s military-heavy cabinet will possibly impact civil-military affairs. He said it bears watching to see if those retired military officials can exert power and serve the executive instead of becoming entrenched in a military mindset that causes the checks implemented by requiring civilian leadership over the military to be co-opted.
Contact: Dr. Allen Linken,, 205/348-5980


Chris Bryant, UA media relations, 205/348-8323,; Shane Dorill (broadcast media only), 205/348-8319

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