Significant moments throughout the history of ANES

Post developed by Katie Brown in coordination with Darrell Donakowski.

ANES65th

This is the last in a series of posts celebrating the 65th anniversary of the American National Election Studies (ANES). The posts have sought to highlight some of the many ways in which the ANES has benefited scholarship, the public, and the advancement of science.

 

As part of the 65th anniversary of the American National Election Studies (ANES), the ANES team created an interactive timeline. The timeline charts the history of the project with annotated notable dates and historic photographs. Here, we highlight three of the many entries.
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1948 – The Very Beginning

The timeline begins with the inception of ANES. In 1948, social psychologists Angus Campbell and Robert Kahn and the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center (SRC) surveyed the national electorate. The 1948 survey served as a pilot study for, and many consider to be the first implementation of, the ANES.

1964 – The Feeling Thermometer

The 1964 wave of the study pioneered the feeling thermometer. This unique question format asks respondents to gauge their feelings on a scale from “cold” to “warm”. Feeling thermometers have since been included in all ANES waves, with their use spreading globally and to all academic fields

1996 – Comparative Study of Electoral Systems

The independent Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project coordinates the inclusion of common sets of questions in post-election surveys around the world.  ANES first incorporated CSES questions in its 1996 wave, moving from national barometer to global participant in the process.

Please consider further exploring the interactive timeline to be reminded of some of the many significant moments throughout the history of this important scientific resource.  And if you have ideas for additions to the ANES timeline, the study team would welcome your suggestions by email to: anes@electionstudies.org

 

The American Voter – A Seminal Text in Political Science

Post developed by Katie Brown.

ANES65th

This post is part of a series celebrating 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.

 

University of Michigan political scientists Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes published The American Voter in 1960. The American Voter takes root in a time of changing notions about individuals and decision-making. In the 1940s, Paul Lazarsfeld and the Columbia school placed a new emphasis on demographic factors in responses to media and support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

220px-Angus_Campbell_-_The_American_Voter_(1960)In The American Voter, Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes became part of this behavioral revolution as they considered audience traits in the context of politics. The main argument of the book holds that most American voters cast their ballots on the basis of party identification. Specifically, voter decisions pass through a funnel. At the opening of the funnel is party identification. With this lens, voters process issue agenda. They then narrow down to evaluate candidate traits. Finally, at the small end of the funnel is vote choice. This understanding of voters encompasses the “Michigan Model.”

In time, the Michigan Model was revised. The original Michigan Model held party identification as king. This thesis maps onto the strong post-World War II Democratic party, strengthened by Roosevelt. In the next few decades, party identification weakened. More recently, party identification reemerged stronger than ever due to a variety of factors, including changing campaign strategy and polarization.

So while these new generations of scholars find different balances between party identification and other factors influencing vote choice, The American Voter provided a bar against which this change could be measured.

The American Voter also enabled the tools of measurement with ANES. The American Voter utilized early waves of what would become the American National Election Studies (ANES), which Miller himself facilitated. The ANES developed into a multi-wave, decade-spanning project offering continuous data on the American electorate since 1948.

Cited over 6,500 times to date, the book remains a seminal text in political science.

The ANES, the CSES, and the future of survey research

Post developed by  John H. Aldrich (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.

My contact with the ANES began in 1966, or maybe it was in 1967, in John Kessel’s class at Allegheny College, when we read that relatively new book, The American Voter. It was presented to us then as revolutionary and that assessment stands today. Since then, it has become my good fortune to be able to be involved in the ANES, on which that book was based, in a wide variety of ways. Let me mention two dimensions of the ANES, the CSES and the future.

The Comparative Studies of Electoral Systems (CSES), led into being by Steve Rosenstone from the ANES among others, is the extension of the aspirations of the ANES into a truly comparative context. That set of aspirations was to demand the highest quality research design and data collection to enable the strongest inferences possible about how elections work. CSES is primarily the comparative study of differing democratic institutions and cultures, and the idea is to have as close to “gold standard” data collected on exactly the same topics in as many electoral democracies as possible, so we can learn just what is special to particular nations or electoral systems and what is general. The notion, that is, is to make possible the strongest science of democracy we can. We are now entering the fifth round of such studies, and the advances are becoming quite remarkable (see www.cses.org for what is nearly 20 years of research). The point is that not only was the ANES the original model, an important source of leadership, and indeed, was the justification for NSF support for the project, but all that continues to this day.

The ANES (and indeed the CSES) is entering a critical period. There are two kinds of threats, and hence two kinds of opportunities. One threat is external. The cost of the maintaining the gold standard is very high, possibly unsustainably so, and funding in the U.S., as in many nations, is under threat. In the U.S., it is under political threat, as Congress seriously considers limiting the scope of the science it will support through the NSF. The internal threat is, of course, related to cost, but it is also that maintaining the gold standard of excellence in design faces new and ever stronger challenges. While the ANES has over time maintained a position at the head of the class in terms of response rates, its current response rates, like everyone else’s, are much lower than desired and also lower than they were not so long ago. And new technologies present new challenges as to how best to meet standards of excellence in research design and survey implementation. The need for both new science and its engineering counterparts in the face of declining interest in participating in surveys and other challenges is acute – but it is also something that the scientific community surrounding and supporting the ANES ought to be especially attuned to and especially good at creating. So, this is a challenge to the community to step up, as Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes and as Kish did 65 years ago.

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.

How ANES impacts the university classroom

Post developed by Katie Brown and Deborah Schildkraut.

ANES65thThis post is part of a series celebrating 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. Do you have ideas for additional posts? Please contact us by email (cps-center@umich.edu) or Twitter (@umisrcps).

In this post, we consider the impact of ANES on teaching.

First, we hear from Tufts University Professor of Political Science Deborah Schildkraut, who shares her experience using ANES in the classroom. From Schildkraut:

ANES impacts my teaching in two key ways. First, I use raw ANES data in my lectures.Second, the research I rely on as I teach and that I think is really meaningful for my students includes:

All take advantage of the time series to help demonstrate both the importance of fundamentals and the role of particular events in shaping attitudes, behaviors, and election outcomes. And all are written at a level that combines sophisticated methods but approachability such that undergrads can engage with them.

Second, in a 1977 grant proposal to the American National Science Foundation (NSF), ANES founder Warren Miller outlined the current and potential use of ANES in teaching. This excerpt from the proposal encapsulates his analysis and vision:

The election data are even more widely used in activities related to teaching. Reports from the same roster of political scientists who were questioned about research use of the data indicate that the data were being used for teaching purposes in some 480 courses taken by more than 18,000 students… Given the reasonably short history of the systematic use of quantitative data by political science students in meeting course requirements, we were surprised to discover that three-quarters of the students using the data were actually undergraduates.

The hand typed table below from the 1977 proposal details the use of ANES (then called the Michigan Election Study) in the university classroom.

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Miller then concluded, “The election studies promise to play an increasingly significant role in undergraduate teaching.” Professor Deborah Schildkraut’s use of ANES nearly forty years after the 1977 proposal demonstrates the continued reach of ANES in the classroom.

 

How ANES time series data enabled Lynn Vavreck’s book The Message Matters

Post Developed by Lynn Vavreck and Katie Brown.

ANES65thThis post is part of a series celebrating 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. Do you have ideas for additional posts? Please contact us by email (cps-center@umich.edu) or Twitter (@umisrcps).

In this post, we consider the impact of ANES on a seminal work in the field, Lynn Vavreck’s The Message Matters.

Lynn Vavreck is a Professor of Political Science and Communication Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her book, The Message Matters: The Economy and Presidential Campaigns, considers the role of the economy and candidate’s reactions to the economy in determining election outcomes.

Vavreck supports this idea by analyzing six decades of elections. She considers why, when, and how campaign messages matter. The election data came from the American National Election Studies (ANES), underscoring the utility of time series data. Vavreck writes of her experience writing the book…

Without the ANES, I never could have written The Message Matters, which essentially treated each presidential candidate over the last 17 elections as an observation. With only 34 cases to work with, I leveraged the power of the tens of thousands of cases the ANES offered over that same time period to test implications of my work among voters. Because of these data, I was able to show that the things presidential candidates talk about in their campaigns affect voters in predictable and important ways. Quite apart from being irrelevant, presidential campaigns play an important role in election outcomes.

Using ANES data, Vavreck concludes that the economy is the single most important feature of elections since 1950, affirming prior research in the field. The Message Matters goes one step farther, demonstrating that it is against the economic backdrop that candidates must cast themselves. The messages they promote matter. In particular, how they speak about the economy matters. And how they speak about other issues matters, particularly as it affects room for discourse about the economy.

The Message Matters garnered critical praise upon its release. Paul M. Sniderman, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Stanford University, writes, “I have not read a book of comparable elegance of argument and mastery of analysis in years. It is outstanding on three dimensions. In its combination of analytical depth and economy, it is a model for research on election campaigns. In its fusion of theory and empirics, it is a model for research in political science. In its principled, persistent, ingenious efforts to turn up evidence against its own hypotheses, it is a model for the social sciences.” Larry M. Bartels, Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt, raves, “Vavreck’s creative theorizing and informative historical analysis will change the way political scientists think about presidential campaigns. While giving campaign strategists their overdue due, she also sheds invaluable light on how political contexts shape their strategies and their odds of success.”   Campaign consultant and pollster Stanley Greenberg declared the book “a must read” for future presidential candidates.

In sum, Vavreck’s important book was made possible in part by the time series data provided by ANES.

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