The conference brings together scholars to discuss the current standingof theory and findings in the political behavior classic, The American Voter. The immediate stimulus from the gathering is the forthcoming publication, by the University of Michigan, The American Voter Revisited (Lewis-Beck, Jacoby, Norpoth, and Weisberg, 2008). This work (outlined below) will provide a centerpiece for the contemporary debate.
In the study of contemporary politics, few works have had more impact than The American Voter (Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes). With respect to the understanding of US elections in particular, it seems fair to say that no volume has had more influence. Although it appeared over forty years ago, American electoral studies today still are pretty much an affirmation of -- or a reaction to -- its basic paradigm, especially for presidential contests. There are many reasons why it captured so much attention when it appeared-- the newness of national election surveys, its theoretical attention to a relatively untried psychology of political behavior, the first-time focus on explaining individual voters, its fresh empirical assessment of every major topic of vote choice and, last but not least, the clarity and power of the writing. Rival treatises have emerged, but nothing has knocked it from its high perch. The American Voter still is the touchstone work in this part of the political science discipline. But, it was based on the early Michigan national election surveys, from 1952-1956. One wonders what it would look like if it were written today, and the authors had at hand instead a current set of surveys, say from 2000-2004.
The volume, The American Voter Revisited (University of Michigan, 2008) ISBN: 9780472050406, which resulted from this conference, treats the same questions, hypotheses, and theoretical concerns as the original work, but with contemporary data. In terms of organization, it follows closely The American Voter table of contents, with its chapter titles and five sections – theory, political attitudes, political context, socioeconomic context, and the political system. These topics are still relevant, covering the major research themes in the subfield. In terms of data analysis, it again follows the original approach, which was illustration through the use of simple figures and cross-tabulations. Their unadorned but well- constructed contingency tables, composed of raw frequencies and percentages, allowed for high clarity of presentation. They maximized the ability of the student reader to grasp the evidence.