Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The History of American Electoral Behavior

The History of American Electoral Behavior

Joel H. Silbey
Allan G. Bogue
William H. Flanigan
Lee Benson
David A. Bohmer
Walter Dean Burnham
William N. Chambers
Jerome M. Clubb
Philip C. Davis
Robert R. Dykstra
Phyllis F. Field
William H. Flanigan
J. Rogers Hollingsworth
John J. Kushma
David R. Reynolds
Jerrold G. Rusk
Martin Shefter
John L. Shover
Joel H. Silbey
John J. Stucker
Nancy H. Zingale
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 406
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The History of American Electoral Behavior
    Book Description:

    Concentrating on the American historical experience, the contributors to this volume apply quantitative techniques to the study of popular voting behavior. Their essays address problems of improving conceptualization and classifications of voting patterns, accounting for electoral outcomes, examining the nature and impact of constraints on participation, and considering the relationship of electoral behavior to subsequent public policy.

    The writers draw upon various kind of data: time series of election returns, census enumerations that provide the social and economic characteristics of voting populations, and individual poll books and other lists that indicate whom the individual voters actually supported. Appropriate statistical techniques serve to order the data and aid in evaluating relationships among them. The contributions cover electoral behavior throughout most of American history, as reflected by collections in official and private archives.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7114-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Series Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Charles Tilly and Richard A. Easterlin
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Joel H. Silbey, Allan G. Bogue and William H. Flanigan
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    Election contests in the United States have always mobilized hosts of curious observers: interested journalists, casual travelers from abroad, and plain citizen bystanders, all enthralled by the succession of dramatic national political campaigns that have enlivened our history. Through time, a growing cadre of professional analysts also have watched with equally intense interest. Reflecting such fascination, history books abound with descriptions of the preliminary skirmishing before the conventions, the selection of candidates, the writing of platforms, and the details of the months of intense campaigning culminating in the ultimate drama of election day itself as long weeks of fervent activity...

  6. Part One: Electoral Sequences in American History

    • Introduction to Part One
      (pp. 31-44)

      As we have seen in the general introduction to this volume, there were American social scientists from the late nineteenth century onward to the 1950’s who were intrigued by the ebb and flow of partisan control in the United States. Some of them produced trail-blazing empirical research, and various theoretical formulations such as the “law of the pendulum” enjoyed some vogue.¹ But it is also true that the number of outstanding practitioners with such interest was small, and the theoretical component in their work was less than satisfying. During this same period, historians generally considered themselves particularly qualified to deal...

    • 1 Partisan Realignment: A Systemic Perspective
      (pp. 45-77)

      During recent decades major progress has been made toward improved knowledge of American mass political behavior. Intensive investigations, relying primarily upon the techniques of survey research, have produced extensive systematic information bearing upon popular political attitudes and behavior and upon the electoral process more generally. Well developed conceptualizations which emphasize the social-psychological basis of mass political behavior have appeared. They are marked by considerable predictive and explanatory power and have gained widespread acceptance.¹ Nor has research been limited to the phenomena of the contemporary era. Historians and other social scientists have increasingly explored popular political behavior in earlier historical contexts,...

    • 2 Toward a Theory of Stability and Change in American Voting Patterns: New York State, 1792-1970
      (pp. 78-105)

      Over the past two decades, the study of the historical dimensions of American voting behavior has become a well-developed and sophisticated enterprise. Much work in nineteenth-and twentieth-century aggregate electoral data has significantly added to our knowledge of past politics. It also has clarified and improved some of the general theories of mass voting behavior first elaborated in studies of contemporary electoral patterns.¹ The concept of voting cycles, for example—long intervals of partisan stability occasionally broken by temporary disruptions or rare periods of critical change—has been particularly well-established by research in the available historical data. Beginning with the examination...

    • 3 Third Party Alignments in a Two Party System: The Case of Minnesota
      (pp. 106-134)

      Successful third parties are a rarity in American politics. To be sure, independent candidates or parties created to endorse a particular individual occasionally win elections or make strong showings, but they are unlikely to be able to confer their personal appeal on other candidates. The Progressive party could not survive the exit of Teddy Roosevelt nor the American Independent party the wounding of George Wallace. Third parties which do survive as organizations for a lengthy period of time, such as the socialist parties or the Prohibition party, usually have little vote-getting ability, with no chance to elect officeholders and virtually...

  7. Part Two: Popular Participation in Elections

    • Introduction to Part Two
      (pp. 137-145)

      A Primary concern of political analysis over the years has been the extent and nature of popular participation in elections. While political philosophers have debated the wisdom and morality of mass participation, empirical studies have focused on two main topics: (1) factors associated with extensions of and restrictions on suffrage; and (2) causes of nonvoting within the eligible electorate. Although characteristics of suffrage and turnout are valuable in describing a political system, the main payoff for analysts giving attention to them lies in relating either limitations on suffrage to the behavior of the electoral system or the variation in turnout...

    • 4 The Maryland Electorate and the Concept of a Party System in the Early National Period
      (pp. 146-173)

      In recent years, a number of scholars have begun to question the existence of a party system in the United States in the years between 1789 and 1824. Essentially, specialists agree, a well-developed party system should exhibit at least three major characteristics. First, the parties should have formal structure and perform a variety of political functions. Generally speaking, the party organization should be hierarchical in form, with a few leaders at the top and a variety of party workers below them. The organization’s functions will normally include the nomination of candidates, the conducting of campaigns, and the mobilization of supporters....

    • 5 Party, Competition, and Mass Participation: The Case of the Democratizing Party System, 1824-1852
      (pp. 174-197)

      Alexis de Tocqueville was equipped with remarkable insight and an uncanny talent for articulate observation. However, the political events which preceded his visit and the growing inclusiveness of American political involvement and experience which continued after his return to France would have undoubtedly captured the attention of a less perceptive observer. Three years before de Tocqueville’s famous visit, America experienced its first truly national presidential election. Andrew Jackson captured the presidency in the country’s first million vote canvass. A landmark in American electoral history, 1828 initiated a major, new trend on the political horizon—a sharp and sustained increase in...

    • 6 The Effect of the Southern System of Election Laws on Voting Participation: A Reply to V. O. Key, Jr.
      (pp. 198-250)

      Although the South has customarily been characterized as a unique political culture in American history, many aspects of its culture have borne close resemblance to the rest of the country—not the least of which has been the South’s heavy reliance on election laws to limit voter participation at the polls. What is unique about this aspect of the South’s culture is that such legislation continued to be enacted long after the rest of the nation had given up pursuing such negative goals. The persistence of restrictive suffrage legislation in the later phases of the South’s history recalls a most...

  8. Part Three:: Determinants of Popular Voting Behavior

    • Introduction to Part Three
      (pp. 253-262)

      Analysis of the determinants of individual and group voting behavior—explaining why people vote as they do—has long been a particularly fruitful field of investigation. As the general introduction to this volume makes clear, during the 1950’s and 1960’s a model of mass voting evolved, rooted in survey research. Voting choice, according to this model, derived from commitments to political parties. Partisan perspectives were determined by pre-existing values and definitions of reality, and these values and perspectives originated in the personal life experience of each individual beginning with the absorption of family political values in childhood. Occasionally, short-term forces...

  9. 7 The Electoral Foundations of the Political Machine: New York City, 1884-1897
    (pp. 263-298)

    Although historians, political scientists, and sociologists have written at some length and with considerable insight about the urban political machine, remarkably little research has been undertaken to discern the conditions associated with the emergence and development of this form of party organization. Hypotheses concerning the sources of machine government, to be sure, abound, but as James C. Scott has noted, “no actual empirical tests of hypotheses advanced for the rise and decline of machine politics have been attempted.”¹

    New York City provides a particularly appropriate setting in which to assess the explanatory power of such hypotheses, both because of its...

  10. Part Four: The Impact of Popular Voting Behavior on Public Policy

    • Introduction to Part Four
      (pp. 343-345)

      The final essay in this volume by J. Rogers Hollingsworth concerns the impact of popular voting behavior on other areas of government, particularly the policies which officeholders adopt and how their adoption is related to the way people vote. Since the seminal work of Richard Dawson and James Robinson in 1963, a number of political scientists have considered the truth of that staple item of Democratic theory, that electoral behavior does affect the way governments subsequently behave.¹ Seeing government policy decisions as “what politics is all about” they examined a number of political variables: the extent of participation in elections,...

    • 10 The Impact of Electoral Behavior on Public Policy: The Urban Dimension, 1900
      (pp. 346-371)

      For generations, many students of democratic politics have assumed that popular voting behavior has a considerable impact on the shaping of public policy. But there has been little agreement on what this in fact means. Analysts have disagreed as to how much control over public policy the electorate exerts, or how we should measure the impact of popular voting behavior on public policy. How important are political elites, as well as the social and economic characteristics of a society, in shaping public policy?

      While there are many answers to these questions, most of the literature clusters around four general positions:...

  11. List of Participants in the Conference on Electoral Behavior at Cornell University, June 1973
    (pp. 372-373)
  12. The Contributors
    (pp. 374-378)
  13. Index
    (pp. 379-384)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-385)