Essays on the Scientific Study of Politics

By Herbert J. Storing | Go to book overview

APPENDIX. The American Voter

T HE FOREGOING analysis of voting studies was written before the appearance of a new work from the Michigan Survey Research Center, The American Voter.88 The intent of this work and its general approach are similar to those of The Voter Decides, and its merit consists in the extent to which it is informed by political considerations and to which it carries the search for causative factors.

Instead of being content to identify "psychological" attitudes, similar to those in The Voter Decides -- and which Rossi criticized as being largely tautological -- the authors of The American Voter look upon the six "psychological" attitudes 89 or "attitude forces" as "intervening variables linking behavior with a host of antecedent factors" (p. 120). That is, they recognize that voting choice is governed by what we have called political opinion, and they seek to discover the antecedent causes of this opinion, which they hope to state in the form of deep-seated laws of social behavior. Though their purpose is the same as that of Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee, they are critical of the "social approach" to the study of voting behavior because of the ephemeral character of its findings, among other reasons.

A correlation between the fact of being a Negro and the casting of a Democratic ballot gives us interesting information, yet information pitched at a low level of abstraction. Generalizations of this sort tend to fall by the wayside with the passage of sufficient time, if not reformulated in more general terms. In the case of Negroes, for example, there is evidence to indicate that not more than a decade or two ago the relationship was reversed, with Negroes tending to favor the Republican Party. And it seems entirely plausible that the relationship might become reversed again in the fairly near future, without upsetting any very deep-seated "laws" of social behavior.

Such laws we presume to exist, and with proper phrasing they should not only outlast reversals of voting pattern but should predict them [pp. 36-37].

The question concerns the character of these laws and whether they will

____________________
88
Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes, The American Voter ( New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1960).
89
"In the elections of 1952 and 1956 the elements of politics that seemed most clearly to be objects of popular attitude were these: the personal attributes of Stevenson; the personal attributes of Eisenhower; the groups involved in politics and the questions of group interest affecting them; the issues of domestic policy; the issues of foreign policy; and the comparative record of the two parties in managing the affairs of government. We have conceived evaluative orientations toward these classes of things as six dimensions of partisan attitude" (p. 67).

-58-

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Essays on the Scientific Study of Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • I - Voting Studies 1
  • Contents 2
  • Appendix. the American Voter 58
  • II - The Science Of Administration Herbert A. Simon 63
  • Contents 64
  • III - The Group Approach Arthur F. Bentley 151
  • Contents 152
  • IV - Scientific Propaganda Harold D. Lasswell 225
  • Contents 226
  • V- An Epilogue 305
  • Index of Names 329
  • Index of Names 331
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