Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 June 2018

(p. vii) Preface

(p. vii) Preface

There are few areas in political science where scholarly knowledge has made greater progress in the past two generations than the field of political behavior. From Aristotle's time until the 1950s, the description and explanation of public opinion was based on the impressions of political “experts.” We could not systematically study what citizens actually believed, how they acted, or why they voted for one party rather than another.

The advent of systematic, scientific public opinion surveys dramatically changed our knowledge of the average citizen. We see this advance in contemporary politics. Where once politicians guessed what the public favored, they can now monitor public policy preferences through a plethora of public opinion surveys. Campaigns were once idiosyncratic processes, with campaign managers acting with limited information. Now, there is a sophisticated knowledge of how voters think and act. One suspects that a campaign from the 1950s would not be able to compete with a modern campaign that has the benefit of this knowledge. Our understanding of political participation and political attitudes is similarly enriched.

This Handbook documents our current knowledge about citizen attitudes and actions that resulted from this behavioral revolution. Moreover, the revolution is continuing. Initially, surveys of public opinion were limited to only a few, affluent democracies. In the past decade, research has expanded to a near global scale. We are now able to compare how citizens in Berlin compare to those in Benin, how voting in San Francisco compares to voting in San Salvador.

The goal of this Handbook is to introduce the reader to the key concepts in our field, the empirical evidence that scholars have collected, and the remaining research questions that still face us. We have organized sections to reflect the major themes in the field, and invited the leading scholars in each area to summarize the research literature. In addition, for each section we asked a leading figure to write a final chapter in the section that discusses the broad topics and remaining research questions in the field. We want to thank all of the authors for their exceptional contributions to this volume. We learned a great deal about the state of political behavior research, and we trust the reader will also learn a great deal from this collection.

In a project this large, we also have accumulated a list of people who supported this effort. Robert Goodin collaborated with Hans‐Dieter Klingemann on the New Handbook of Political Science that planted the seed for this series, and Goodin oversaw the expanded Handbook series. We appreciate Bob's advice and support. Dominic Byatt at Oxford University Press championed this Handbook series and has (p. viii) been an ideal editor and supporter. The Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine, and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung generously provided support for the completion of this project. Liz Schiller helped us prepare the manuscript for submission, a major undertaking for a book of this size. Tanya Dean at Oxford University Press expertly guided the Handbook through the production process.

A successful research program answers significant research questions, and inevitably generates new questions. We think the reader will see both traits in the collection of political behavior articles that follows.

Russell J. Dalton & Hans‐Dieter Klingemann

Irvine & Berlin