This chapter discusses the concept of accuracy and how to measure it. It presents a chronology of the accuracy of the presidential pre-election polls during the 2008 election, and then studies the various ways to estimate election outcomes that do not include polls conducted by the analyst. The chapter also examines the impact of new technologies and evolving voting procedures on the accuracy of polls.
Walter J. Stone
This article describes the place of party activists in the electoral process, with attention to questions about whether and how they distort processes of electoral representation in the United States. In general elections, activists' strong partisanship is usually seen as pushing them inexorably to support their party's candidate. Furthermore a study of the 2006 midterm elections in the House of Representatives is elaborated. The effect of activist opinion in districts on incumbent position-taking and the influence of activist mobilization on incumbent vote share are reviewed. There is an increasing realization among scholars of the electoral process that activists are essential to understanding the connections between the public and candidates, party images, and processes of change. It is possible that the participation of activists contributes essentially to the health and functioning of the electoral system.
As Emancipation and Reconstruction eliminated much of the legal foundation of slavery, states and individuals became increasingly concerned about preserving the racial integrity of whiteness. The Reconstruction Amendments were intended to change not only the scope of matters over which states retained control but also the balance of power between the federal and state governments. Their ability to achieve these objectives, however, was limited by both the Tenth Amendment and principles of state sovereignty. Consequently, the Tenth Amendment became an increasingly important source of state power to make the privileges, immunities, and rights of state citizenship racially contingent. To the extent that the Fourteenth Amendment's federal citizenship had any effect, it required states to treat similarly situated individuals and situations equally. Moreover, sovereignty meant states continued to have the ability not only to define the particulars of race but also to determine when and how race would matter. Federal citizenship, however, did not make race constitutionally irrelevant.
At the end of World War I, whites tried to put blacks back in their place. They found, however, that the place of African Americans had changed. The Harlem Renaissance represented the soaring aspirations—including in the area of constitutional rights—in the African American community. As the country faced the economic exigencies of the Depression, the federal government took a more active role in protecting individuals' economic rights. Minimum wage and maximum hours laws, as well as legislation establishing federal social welfare benefits, marked a shift in the balance of power between the federal government, the states, and their citizens. Soon thereafter, the Court concluded that the line it had drawn between intra- and interstate commerce could not be maintained. The Court demonstrated its willingness to consider the substantial effect of individual activity on interstate commerce in the aggregate should every individual be allowed to do what the actor in question did. This change would signal a more expansive view of interstate commerce that allowed Congress to regulate matters formerly committed to the control of the states by way of the Tenth Amendment.
Mark N. Franklin and Till Weber
This article concentrates on three areas in which American elections have features that are illuminated by voting behavior in countries with somewhat different features. These features are multiple elections, separated powers, and the locality rule. It also describes the aspects of electoral behavior: split-ticket voting, cycle of elections, and low voter turnout. Furthermore, a discussion on midterm loss and electoral realignments is presented. A comparativist perspective on US elections might show the study of realignments in much the same way as it could help to reshape thinking in such diverse subfields as turnout, party identification, and midterm loss.
William G. Jacoby
Ever since the appearance of The American Voter, there has been a general consensus among political scientists that three variables stand out as the most critical proximal influences on voting: personal attachments to political parties; individual reactions to public policy controversies; and evaluations of the candidates' personal characteristics. The theoretical importance of party identification stems from its temporal stability and broad influence across a range of other political beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. It is also significant because partisan attachments help to integrate individuals into the political world. Feelings about the candidates comprise a very reasonable heuristic device for cutting through the complexities that abound in any election campaign. The American Voter emphasized the importance of election-specific ‘short-term forces’.
Michael P. McDonald
This article tries to understand American voter turnout rates in a historical perspective. In order to do this, the pool of eligible voters, the voting procedures, and the political circumstances surrounding the elections in a given period should be addressed. The article discusses the four eras in American participation: Founding Era, Party Machine Era, Segregation Era, and Nationalization Era. The Founding Era witnessed the lowest voter turnout rates in American history due to measurement error. The Party Machine Era serves as an indicator of the important role political parties played in organizing American society. The Segregation Era marks a period of retrenchment in voter turnout. The overwhelming voting trend during the Nationalization Era has been a tearing down of walls, not building them. An active area of research is how procedural changes affect voter turnout, from how people are registered to when and how they cast their ballots.
Kayla Stover and Sherry Cable
Women have played instrumental, often leading, roles in the twentieth-century environmental movement. The sparse literature on women’s activism in the early twentieth century indicates that both White and Black women in the racially segregated, middle-class women’s club movement pursued urban reforms. But White women additionally adopted conservationism, while Black women led the struggle for racial justice. The more robust literature focuses on women’s participation in the environmental movement originating in the 1960s. Marked by class, gender, and racial divisions, the movement consists of three sectors. Whites and men far outnumber Blacks and women in the middle-class professional and radical movement segments that center on conservationism. In contrast, White and Black women dominate leadership and membership in community, anti-contamination organizations representing the working-class environmental justice movement. Research findings identify three themes: women’s motivations for becoming activists, their experiences of participating as activists, and the individual impacts of being activists.
For more than a century, women have organized for anti-feminist and conservative causes, including opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and legal abortion. This chapter outlines anti-feminist women’s activism ranging from their opposition to suffrage, to their support for the Ku Klux Klan, to their formation into contemporary national organizations. It examines the fight over the ERA, with special attention paid to the conservative women who opposed it, the tactics they employed, and how racial and class differences among women factored into support for, or opposition to, the amendment’s passage. Finally, an analysis of pro-life women’s activism provides insights into the strategies they use to counter feminist and pro-choice efforts. Talking as women, about women’s interests, enables pro-life groups and actors to tackle pro-choice advocates who have long argued for attention to women’s bodies and lives in reproductive health-care debates.
David M. Searle and Marisa Abrajano
As electorates around the world become increasingly diverse, addressing how electoral persuasion emerges is a major concern. Focusing on the United States, this chapter explores the campaign strategies used by candidates to persuade, mobilize, and target diverse voters. It begins by conducting an exhaustive review of the existing research. After doing so, the chapter concludes that there is still much to be done and highlights particular aspects ripe for future research. In particular, scant attention has been paid to the ways candidates, political parties, and outside groups target African Americans and the extent to which they are persuaded or mobilized by these efforts. A similar need exists with respect to the campaign strategies used to target Asian Americans. Critically, it is important to know whether the electoral tactics, long proven effective for white Americans also work in the same way for voters with distinct political experiences and socialization processes. The remainder of the chapter offers future avenues and directions for scholars wishing to better understand how electoral persuasion operates in diverse electorates.
Jane Junn, Taeku Lee, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, and Janelle Wong
This chapter studies the implications of the socioeconomic and demographic factors on public opinion among Asian Americans. The first part reviews the present social science research on Asian-American political attitudes, and then discusses the outlines of Asian-American political partisanship and attitudes on some relevant political issues. It ends with a study of the observations on the challenges of gathering opinion data among Asian Americans and a discussion of research strategies, and also refers to some data taken from the 2008 National Asian-American Survey.
William G. Jacoby
This chapter studies the attitude structure or organization within American public opinion, paying special attention to the three general questions from the research literature. It first explains how attitude structure can be differentiated and measured, and then looks at the contribution of ideology and partisanship in individual attitude structures. Finally, the chapter tries to determine whether there are any alternative mechanisms that serve to organize citizens' feelings on the different elements of the political world.
Suzanne Staggenborg and Marie B. Skoczylas
This chapter examines the history of feminist struggles for abortion and reproductive rights in the United States. It analyzes why these issues continue to mobilize participants in opposing movements. Symbolic politics are an important reason for the longevity of the conflict, and issues of abortion and reproduction are connected to concerns about gender and sexuality. Movement/countermovement dynamics also help to keep the conflict alive; when one side wins a victory, the other side gains impetus for mobilization, and the opposing movements follow one another into new arenas. Feminist strategies and frames have continued to adapt to changes in the political and cultural climate. As different constituents organize, including young women and women of color, they contribute new frames and tactics to the struggle for abortion and reproductive rights.
Costas Panagopoulos and Robert Y. Shapiro
This chapter explains how the public opinion towards big government in the United States can be best described, showing that the tensions between egalitarianism and individualism have continued, despite the high levels of public support for the American welfare state. It describes some patterns and trends, which may continue until changing conditions and circumstances modify them, and identifies some patterns and trends that should be carefully observed, such as the economy and partisan conflict.
Michael C. Dawson
This article offers a brief discussion of the concepts of “civil society” and “public sphere” and investigates their utility for our thinking about African American political struggle. It examines the core ideological constellations found within the black public sphere. It also examines historically how African Americans came to see themselves as a group with specific political interests. Looking at distinct periods in African American history, the article begins its historical foray by discussing the networks used in community building under slavery. The article goes on to explore the political importance of Reconstruction and the retrenchment of white supremacy in the South; it also chronicles the period from 1910 until the beginning of World War II when African American political and social action gradually moved from the South to the North.
Meredith A. Katz
This chapter presents a historical overview of political consumerism in the United States and Canada, highlighting how societal and cultural shifts have influenced participation over time. The chapter begins by discussing the debatable origins of political consumerism in the Boston Tea Party to present-day examples, including fair trade and ecoconsumption. Throughout the chapter, there is an emphasis on the heterogeneity of political consumers, with particular attention to how marginalized groups, particularly women and African Americans, have used political consumerism to bring about social change. The chapter also argues that producer-consumer solidarity campaigns, including the antisweatshop movement and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Campaign for Fair Food, are preferable to consumer-led campaigns. Finally, this chapter concludes with methodological considerations for studying political consumerism in North America and suggestions for future research.
D. Sunshine Hillygus
This article describes how far the literature of campaign effects on vote choice has come, and where it should go. It seems clear that the effects of campaigns are more constrained than often is presented in the media. Moreover, the state of research regarding the influence of campaigns on vote choice (rather than turnout), including campaign effects due to citizen learning, campaign priming, and, more directly, voter persuasion, is discussed. The recent evidence of campaign effects largely reflects the availability of better data and more sophisticated research designs. In addition to individual-level variation in the way voters process campaign information, there is also variation in the particular campaign messages they receive. The great variation in candidate strategy and voter decision making should be viewed as both an opportunity and challenge for campaign scholars.
Bradford H. Bishop and D. Sunshine Hillygus
This chapter studies debating, advertising, and campaigning, the latter playing an important role in American democracy, first discussing the development of political campaigns and summarizing the broad theoretical perspectives that have directed scholarly thinking and research on campaign effects. Next, it examines the findings of modern research on the effects of the different sources of campaign information, along with their implications for the democratic process. The chapter ends with a discussion of the opportunities and challenges for future research.
Leslie McCall and Jeff Manza
This chapter takes a look at class differences in political and social attitudes in the United States. The first section briefly describes some of the modern and classical controversies with regards to class differences in public opinion. Next, the chapter considers some of the definitional issues that have hindered work in this area, and offers some descriptive examples of variation in political and social attitudes across the different specifications of class. It ends with a summary of the current status of research, and possible directions that it may take in future.
David Lowery and Virginia Gray
This article provides a contrast between the ‘explosion of large-n studies’ and the more modest progress in theory building and hypothesis testing in research on state-level interest groups. It explores the recent dialogue between theory and empirical analysis on the politics of interest representation. It also argues that examination of the states offers critical advantages over studying the interest system of the US or other national governments. The comparative advantages of the states are reported in some detail. Moreover, the article examines several leading research themes uniquely originating in contemporary state politics research and how these have influenced or should influence interest group scholarship more generally. It is clear that the state literature is no longer so isolated from the more general research program on interest organizations.