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The American Voter Revisited

Michael S. Lewis-Beck, William G. Jacoby, Helmut Norpoth, and Herbert F. Weisberg

Publication Year: 2008

Today we are politically polarized as never before. The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 will be remembered as two of the most contentious political events in American history. Yet despite the recent election upheaval, The American Voter Revisited discovers that voter behavior has been remarkably consistent over the last half century. And if the authors are correct in their predictions, 2008 will show just how reliably the American voter weighs in, election after election. The American Voter Revisited re-creates the outstanding 1960 classic The American Voter---which was based on the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956---following the same format, theory, and mode of analysis as the original. In this new volume, the authors test the ideas and methods of the original against presidential election surveys from 2000 and 2004. Surprisingly, the contemporary American voter is found to behave politically much like voters of the 1950s. "Simply essential. For generations, serious students of American politics have kept The American Voter right on their desk. Now, everyone will keep The American Voter Revisited right next to it." ---Larry J. Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of A More Perfect Constitution "The American Voter Revisited is destined to be the definitive volume on American electoral behavior for decades. It is a timely book for 2008, with in-depth analyses of the 2000 and 2004 elections updating and extending the findings of the original The American Voter. It is also quite accessible, making it ideal for graduate students as well as advanced undergrads." ---Andrew E. Smith, Director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center "A theoretically faithful, empirically innovative, comprehensive update of the original classic." ---Sam Popkin, Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego Michael S. Lewis-Beck is F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa. William G. Jacoby is Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. Helmut Norpoth is Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University. Herbert F. Weisberg is Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv

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pp. v-vi

When I was first informed that a quartet of political scientists was laying out plans for a detailed replication of our 1960 volume entitled The American Voter, I was willing to lend a blessing to the enterprise not only on my own behalf, but for my three coauthors, now departed. I was willing to do so chiefly because of the...


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

The American Voter, by Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes, was published in 1960 as a report on the 1952 and especially the 1956 U.S. presidential elections. Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research had published an earlier book on the 1952 election, a report on the 1954 congressional election, and a few...

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How to Read This Book

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pp. xiii

Most books in political science can be read in linear fashion, the chapters in their given sequence developing the theme announced by the title. The American Voter Revisited can certainly be read that way, but it goes better with a twist. The twist involves knowing the context. Each chapter parallels a chapter from the original The American Voter, published in 1960...

SECTION I: Introduction

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pp. 1-28

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CHAPTER 1: Setting

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pp. 3-18

Voting has become a virtually universal means by which individuals make collective decisions. It is used by legislatures and reading groups, by panels of judges, church conclaves, and the United Nations, and, most importantly, it has become the way that nations represent their mass public in determining governmental actions. The importance of voting...

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CHAPTER 2: Theoretical Orientation

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pp. 19-28

Several theoretical approaches can be used to study voting behavior. There are distinct sociological and psychological approaches, which have followed separate paths in the investigation of voting. Their findings are not contradictory, but the two approaches have not addressed one another. Each has advantages, so that a combination of the two is...

SECTION II: Political Attitudes and the Vote

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pp. 29-107

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CHAPTER 3: Perceptions of the Parties and Candidates

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pp. 31-59

Voters cast their ballots in secret but not in the dark. To understand a voter's choice, we must come to grips with the way a voter sees the elements that enter into the decision. Foremost among them are the candidates on the ballot, the parties they represent, and the issues on which the parties and candidates may take different positions. Like...

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CHAPTER 4: Partisan Choice

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pp. 60-81

The attitudes and reactions that constitute public perceptions of the parties and candidates are important because of their effect on elections and voting. These attitudes affect the public's choice in presidential elections. The images of parties and their candidates fluctuate with daily news events, but the images prevalent on Election Day will inevitably affect the electoral outcome...

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CHAPTER 5: Voting Turnout

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pp. 82-107

When citizens cast a vote in an election they do a lot more than ponder the pros and cons of the rival candidates. They must also resolve that the election is important enough to travel to the polling station or send in their ballot by mail. Preference for a particular candidate can matter only if it is expressed on a ballot, and the decision by some citizens to stay home on Election Day may matter as much for the outcome of an...

SECTION III: The Political Context

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pp. 109-301

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CHAPTER 6: The Impact of Party Identification

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pp. 111-137

Voting can be seen at one level as due to psychological factors. People's attitudes toward the several elements of political conflict comprise a "field of forces" that helps determine their behavior. As seen in chapter 5, the intensity of these attitudes to a good measure explain voting turnout. Similarly, the consistency of these attitudes helps explain why some people cast straight-ticket votes and others split their votes between the...

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CHAPTER 7: The Development of Party Identification

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pp. 138-160

Political parties, like sports teams, evoke strong loyalty and affection in the general public, but also animosity, rejection, or indifference. Most Americans, as the previous chapter showed, feel attached to either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party in a way that shapes their political attitudes, perceptions, and choices. With party...

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CHAPTER 8: Public Policy and Political Preference

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pp. 161-200

It is a basic principle of democratic theory that citizens influence public policy within their political system. Even as citizen preferences shape policies in a democratic system, those policies are likely to affect the thoughts and actions of the very same citizens. As a result of these complementary processes, substantive...

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CHAPTER 9: Attitude Structure and the Problem of Ideology

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pp. 201-253

As we have just seen, only a fraction of the general public shows the potential to cast a vote on the basis of a given issue. At the same time, there is disagreement within the electorate regarding the issue stands of the major parties’ presidential candidates. Based upon findings like these, it is natural to question the degree...

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CHAPTER 10: The Formation of Issue Concepts and Partisan Change

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pp. 254-301

Commentaries on American electoral politics routinely invoke ideological terminology in order to account for election outcomes and patterns of voting behavior. For example, strong performances by Republican candidates, such as those in the elections of 1994 and 2002, are often viewed as evidence that the public favors conservative approaches and solutions to the policy issues...


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pp. 303-389

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CHAPTER 11: Membership in Social Groupings

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pp. 305-333

The majority of Americans are not formal members of a political party. But they do feel some psychological affiliation of a party, and that strongly shapes their political behavior. Official party activists compose a very small group, but the group that is psychologically attached to a party is large. That group identification helps us greatly in analyzing their individual political choices. Citizens...

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CHAPTER 12: Class and Other Social Characteristics

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pp. 334-364

In any democracy, the behavior of the voting public may be studied as individuals or as members of groups. Among all possible social groupings, none has received more notice than social class. This is because, first the concept is exhaustive, excluding...

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CHAPTER 13: Economic Antecedents of Political Behavior

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pp. 365-389

The notion that economics shapes politics is well-worn. Dramatic events, such as the Great Depression, can bring down presidents and put workers in welfare lines. Continued hard times can lead to demands for a change in the two-party system, including calls...

SECTION V: The Electoral Decision and the Political System

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CHAPTER 14: The Electoral Decision

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pp. 393-414

It is common to seek to ascertain the meaning of a national election. Starting on election night itself, pundits attempt to read the tea leaves as to why citizens voted as they did. Many potential explanations are proposed by the media and by interest groups eager to have the election interpreted in their favor. In due...

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CHAPTER 15: Electoral Behavior and the Political System

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pp. 415-423

Most voting studies focus on the causes of the electoral decision, rather than on the effects. They want to know, as we have, what explains the vote choice. Why do voters go to the polls? Why do they select one candidate over another? Answering such questions is a valuable enterprise, and one manifest in the bulk of this volume...

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AFTERWORD: The American Voter Then and Now

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pp. 424-428

How would we evaluate “the” American voter of the early twenty-firs century, and how does he or she compare with “the” American voter of the mid-twentieth century? We can begin to answer these questions by going back through some of the main...

APPENDIX A: Counterpart Tables and Figures

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pp. 429-434

APPENDIX B: Replication of The American Voter

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pp. 435-440


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pp. 441-479


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pp. 481-493

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025138
E-ISBN-10: 0472025139
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050406
Print-ISBN-10: 0472050400

Page Count: 512
Illustrations: 86 tables & 46 figs.
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Elections -- United States.
  • Voting -- United States.
  • Party affiliation -- United States.
  • Political parties -- United States.
  • Political participation -- United States.
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