Change and Continuity and the ANES

Post developed by Paul R. Abramson (Michigan State University), John H. Aldrich (Duke University), Brad T. Gomez (Florida State University), and David W. Rohde (Duke University).

This post is part of a series celebrANES65thating the 65th anniversary of the American National Election Studies (ANES). The posts will seek to highlight some of the many ways in which the ANES has benefited scholarship, the public, and the advancement of science.

 

Change and Continuity is a soon-to-be 18 book series that Abramson, Aldrich, and Rohde began in the 1980 election. Gomez joined the team for the 2012 edition; all 18 will have been published by CQ Press.

Our plan was to get the best possible empirical analysis of the 1980 elections to students so that they could get a rich view of elections, indeed of the best possible science about public opinion and voting behavior, on their desks as quickly as possible. We drew from a number of sources, but there was never a question in our minds that the book would ever be anything but one based primarily on the ANES data. Those data were and are today the best data for teaching about American elections, as it is the best data for learning about and researching about elections. It is the “gold standard” in survey data.

The ANES was already a body of 30 years of electoral and attitudinal data when we started. It has been our good fortune to be writing Change and Continuity for over 30 years. The standards of quality are the continuity, even though there have been a variety of changes in the questionnaire, sampling methods, and survey mode, reflecting scientific advances in surveying the public.

The main advantage of the additional 30 years’ perspective, however, has been enriching the historical perspective on elections. Scholars and pundits have long drawn on previous elections in making their assessments of parties, candidates, and electoral outcomes. Now, however, we can add a serious understanding and 65 year perspective on the public as the foundation of elections. What has changed and what is continuous in the public can tell us much about how democracy works. The ANES completes what is most everywhere else an otherwise incomplete picture of democracy.

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