A New Handbook of Political Science

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

Chapter 10
Political Behavior: Institutional and Experiential Approaches

Patrick Dunleavy

MUCH about political behavior research ought simply be taken as read. The introduction of mass surveys into political science and political sociology has been an important advance. Methods for asking questions have advanced a bit, and techniques for analyzing survey data have advanced a lot, in the last 30 years. Debates about the foundations of political alignment between the Columbia school, the Michigan model and exponents of "issue voting" have been valuable. The extension of survey- based studies from the U.S., first to western Europe and thence to a wide range of other countries, and some small movement towards asking internationally standardized questions, have generated additional insights. Taking all that as granted, critics ( Dunleavy 1989) still ask, "is there more to learn" about mass political behavior?

The question reflects a certain amount of disillusionment with political behavior studies, especially with electoral analysis, as the field has developed in recent years. Once it was apparently the authentic "big science" area of the discipline, with large and capital-intensive projects, elaborate and arcane technologies of its own, and the apparent promise of knowledge-accumulation on "normal science" lines. But the pace of advance in political behavior research has undeniably slowed in the last two decades. Fundamental debates which 1950s and 1960s authors were confident could be sorted out by better analytic techniques, larger sample sizes, or more refined survey instruments have instead seemed more and more immune to further empirical resolution. Patterns of causation involved in political alignments remain as disputed, on theoretical and value grounds, now as ever they were--both within the field of political behavior, and between its specialists and outsiders.

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