- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Edition Unstated edition (September 13, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521601177
- ISBN-13: 978-0521601177
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tides of Consent: How Public Opinion Shapes American Politics Edition Unstated Edition
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"Stimson deftly interprets mathematical analysis of large quantities of public answers to survey questions. Highly recommended." CHOICE June 2005
"The book is well written and a rare example of successful integration of state-of-the-art research and passing on knowledge to a wider audience...the book could be used as a benchmark for comparative research exploring the evolution in public opinion and the effects of campaigns and debates in other institutional settings...an excellent book, which deserves to be widely read." Political Studies Review
"...scholars and their students will find much to appreciate as well in this clearly written and engaging book, filled with interesting time series data and colorful examples about politicians and campaigns we all remember...Stimson believes that the most important thing in American politics is public opinion but says we have only 'scratched the surface' in understanding opinion movement (p. xvi). His work has done much more than scratch the surface, and in Tides of Consent, he accomplishes his goal of making his research accessible to a broader audience than he has reached before." Political Science Quarterly, Fay Lomax Cook, Northwestern University
"This is excellent work by a scholar who is, by all measures, top in his field. Stimson writes about the single most important element in American politics: public opinion. He traces movement in public opinion over time and shows that it moves politics." Janet Box-Steffensmeier, Ohio State University
"Tides of Consent is an ambitious attempt to integrate the findings of a half-century of public opinion research in an effort to draw convincing conclusions about the political implications and electoral consequences of public opinion. Too often public opinion is presented as filler, a spot on the evening news when nothing else is available.Rarely do we look at public opinion in its contemporary context and almost never do we attempt to understand its significance over the long haul. In this book, Stimson offers us new insights into public preferences and understanding of the links between public preferences and public policy that are often lost in coverage of the daily news or the political campaign." John McIver, University of Colorado
"James Stimson has written a very important - and very readable - book. In a world of erratic sound bites, Stimson's analysis provides the underlying coherence of a symphony. Anyone who wishes to better understand the ebb and flow of American politics should read Tides of Consent"' Richard J. Tofel, Newspaper Executive
"Tides of Consent is an excellent work. This book could be used as a textbook in an undergraduate course on public opinion, and it also makes a very good starting point for a graduate seminar on the same topic. Finally, it is simply interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable reading material that I would recommend to any political scientist."
Perspectives on Politics
"James A. Stimson has written another important book on American public opinion, this time geared to show a general audience how one fundamental aspect of 'democracy' works: that public opinion, contrary to its critics, looks sensibe and 'citizens succeed in communicating their preferences to government'" - Robert Y. Shapiro, Columbia University
This book tracks movement in American public opinion. It examines moods for public policy that cycle over decades. It looks at shorter term movements as the public approves or disapproves politicians, trusts or distrusts government. It is distinctive in that it focuses always on locating the unobserved true opinion that lies beneath, turning away from the superficial polls by which we come to know the real thing. It argues that public opinion is decisive in American politics and it locates the citizens who produce this influential change as a quite small subset of the American electorate.
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In some senses, the culminatuion of this volume begins in chapter 3. Here, Stimson notes the evolution of policy preferences over time. His data analysis clearly suggests oscillations in Americans' political preferences (liberal to conservative as one of the examples) over time (from 1960 to 2000). In Chapter 4, he examines a sampling of presidential elections and asks what they meant (if anything). He also inquires into the effects of presidential debates. Chapter 5 looks at public opinion regarding government between elections. Much data are presented in an accessible and illuminating manner.
In the end, he contends (page 171), ". . .citzens--in the aggregate and at the margin--do succeed in communicatinjg their preferences to government." This should be considered in terms of a conclusion that he and colleagues made in another work, "The Macro Polity," that government in the United States does respond to public opinion. All in all, a good work for well informed laypersons. . . .
Here is a remarkable phenomenon: it is well-demonstrated that when a Republican occupies the White House public opinion grows more liberal and when a Democrat is in charge public opinion grows more conservative. There are a number of possible ways to explain this phenomena.
Stimson's way is to argue that the bulk of the American public is moderate relative to the two political parties. He writes, "think about what the public wants and what it gets from government. It wants middle of the road but has to choose in elections between a party of the right and a party of the left. Thus it is not a coincidence that it is on average dissatisfied by what it gets."
The case Stimson makes depends partly on the fact that great movements to the left or right only take a change by a small number of people. To see who these people are he segments citizens into three categories: (1) The ideologically committed, whose ranks include the best informed and most politically involved; the most important fact, for our purposes, about the committed is they rarely switch sides; (2) The scorekeepers, these tend to be non-ideological pragmatists who do not see politics as a contest of worldviews but are focused predominately on outcomes; (3) The uninvolved, these tend to lack interest in politics and mostly do not pay attention; Stimson writes, that since "they are inattentive...the movements of the uninvolved have a random character."
Given the above, to understand political change we need to understand what moves scorekeepers. Scorekeepers are not focused on the specifics of what government is doing but mainly how things are going. Thus they are going to change with the times, that is, when times are good, as measured by things such as peace and prosperity, they stick with the in-party and vice versa.
The scorekeepers "are committed to nothing but good outcomes...their natural response to policy excess is to reverse direction." Unless I misunderstand there is an unstated assumption, in Stimson, that "policy excess" leads to bad outcomes. But, perhaps, Stimson is once again refering to the point that the bulk of the American public is moderate.
One counter-intuitive implication of Stimson's ideas is that the great movements to the left or the right are "produced not by true ideologues...but by people who judge policy by its effects, not its logic."
My main caveats are conventional ones: the model gives scorekeepers too much credit for being able to separate the wheat (signal) from the chaff (noise) and that the univolved may move, at times, in a systemic direction. Given that outcomes are bound up with contingency, Napoleon had the right idea "give me lucky [politicians]."
A final note. It would seem scorekeepers are blown with the times, by any movement that, for awhile, achieves success. For example, the Nazi movement from its attainment of power in 1933 to say 1938 had the German economy improving and achieved a number of foreign policy successes. Success would not seem to be a completely and always trustworthy guide.
All-in-all, the book is clearly written with interesting data and ideas on nearly every page, highest rating