Political Ideology and Voting Behavior in the Age of Jackson

By Joel H. Silbey | Go to book overview
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dangers of generalized explanations which do not attempt to specify the conditions necessary for them to be verifiable. A careful analysis of the areas of Jacksonian strength and weakness, in order to state the conditions under which his military fame and reputed integrity operated as determining factors, might lead to the unanticipated conclusion that they were of relatively minor importance everywhere. It might be observed that Jackson was strong only in areas having certain characteristics: frontier areas not settled by New England migrants and no "native son" candidate; areas dominated by Scotch-Irish and German voters; agrarian areas dependent upon certain staple crops; and so forth. It might also be observed that in a number of areas where detailed investigation demonstrated little or no perceptible differences in awareness of Jackson's heroism or stress upon his integrity, his proportion of the vote varied widely depending upon the extent to which the area possessed the characteristics denominated above.

If Schlesinger's explanation could be valid only in areas having specific characteristics in common, and does not hold true when these characteristics are absent, it would be more logical to try to explain the vote for Jackson in terms of these specific characteristics rather than general causes which did not in fact operate generally. No implication is intended that any of these developments took place in fact. The point is that the procedure of attempting to specify the conditions under which a given set of causal factors operate might yield systematic findings not consonant with the hypothesis. These findings might then lead to reformulation of the hypothesis, or to construction of a series of new hypotheses more consonant with the data. In turn these hypotheses would be subject to additional testing through the re-analysis of existing data and the collection of additional data necessary to their verification. . . .


Until this point the study has essentially dealt with the problems of learning what happened, where and when it happened, and who did it. In a sense, although filled with technical difficulties and demanding arduous research, these phases of inquiry are relatively the easiest in terms of satisfactory resolution. They call for a high order of intellectual clarity and articulation but the major difficulties they present might really be viewed as mechanical and administrative, requiring efficient organization and adequate forces rather than highly skilled, intelligent, imaginative historical research.

When attempts are made to answer questions involving the why and


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Political Ideology and Voting Behavior in the Age of Jackson


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