Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings

Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings

Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings

Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings


In considering public opinion as an institution in the USA, this volume presents a theory of public mood swings and cycles, based on material accumulated in public-opinion surveys over a number of years.


The idea of electoral moods is old, older than can be traced. But the concept of public policy mood and its indicator were my own thing when I wrote the first edition of this book. I did not wish them to remain so, for that would have meant that scholars had ignored my attempts to make this idea part of political science and public commentary on politics. The effort--which was considerable--in bringing this thing to life would have been wasted if it had remained only my private possession. I am gratified that it did not.

The mood concept and indicator have become part of political science. Used first by friends and graduate students, then by others in the small set of scholars devoted to longitudinal research on American politics, the concept has worked its way ultimately into the hands of scholars I do not know, writing on topics beyond my knowledge. It is not mine anymore.

Some of the new scholarship on mood is my own, written with coauthors Robert Erikson and Michael MacKuen. I correctly anticipated both that I would some day address the dynamic representation thesis and that it would take a while. The product (Stimson,MacKuen, and Erikson 1995) demonstrates that all elected organs of American government are highly responsive to changes of public mood--much more so than I would have anticipated, and I think much more so than is generally believed, and not only by cynical observers. So the work is no longer "unfinished," as I asserted in the original Preface.

Between editions the research program of this book continued at the University of Minnesota and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Paul Kellstedt and later Larry Grossback assisted in the updating and data management processes that are essential to this ongoing endeavor. I have incurred debts in this second installment to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to its Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, to Leo Wiegman (executive editor for Westview Press), and to Russell Dean (for assistance in updating the many data displays in the book).

By far my greatest debt, and one for which it is no longer possible to express my gratitude, is to Robert H. Durr. Bob Durr joined this endeavor as the first edition was nearly completed. He essentially took over getting . . .

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