A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Political Behavior:
An Overview

Edward G. Carmines Robert Huckfeldt

THE fiftieth anniversy of the modern era in political behavior research was celebrated (quite silently) in 1994. We mark 1944 as the birth of the modern era because in that year Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues from the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University published the first academically inspired study of an election that focused primarily on individual voters. Their study, which reported on fieldwork carried out in the 1940 presidential campaign in Elmira, New York, was quite primitive in some respects and quite advanced in others. Moreover, it established an enduring intellectual paradigm in political behavior research--an intellectual paradigm that we will consider more extensively below. But the fundamental significance of their study for the modern era was that it focused on individual voters, and in so doing it helped transform the study of citizenship and democratic politics.

The Columbia sociologists were not the only scholars during this general period who turned their focus to the individual citizen. Two other streams of intellectual research, both of which understood democratic politics in the context of individual voters, locate their origins in the same postwar period. The American National Election Study series and the work of Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes ( 1960) trace their origins to fieldwork conducted in the 1948 election. And economic theories of democracy have a genesis which dates, perhaps most notably, to the work of Anthony Downs ( 1957). Taken together, these efforts have established three schools of research: the political sociology tradition that flowed from the work of the Bureau of Applied Research at Columbia, the political psychology tradition with origins at the University of Michigan's Center for Survey Research, and the political economy tradition which seriously

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