Methodology and Interview Sample
This book is based primarily on qualitative survey methods, that is, openended interviews in conjunction with participant observation fieldwork. Qualitative methodology is not as useful a predictive tool as a standardized survey can be, but it can facilitate the construction of explanatory theory. More important, qualitative methods allow us to build theory through respondents' own self-interpretations and the observation of their everyday practices. In this book this theoretical approach means looking at the meaning of political participation through the views and experiences of first-generation Latin American immigrants themselves.
What can qualitative fieldwork do that cannot be achieved through survey work? Hochschild in What's Fair? sets out four claims for qualitative analysis. First, qualitative work may not provide conclusive "proof," but may resonate with the reader's own experience, so as to be persuasive or at least suggestive. Second, this kind of approach may discover theoretical questions which later may be formalized into hypotheses to be tested by quantitative social science methods. Third, instead of inferring the link between variables as quantitative research does, qualitative research can draw responses from actors showing how they link these variables in their own minds. "The conclusions from both types of research may be equally valid, even identical, but they emerge from different types of data, which are collected in different ways to yield different types of explanations for the same phenomenon." Fourth, Hochschild argues that qualitative research can generate findings that survey research cannot -- implying that survey data may be "limited by either a failure of imagination or the exigencies of statistical techniques." In addition, qualitative work, being unconstrained by method-