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Realignment in American Politics

Realignment in American Politics
Toward a Theory

This book is about the phenomenon of realignment, a sharp, enduring shift in voter support of the two major parties, in American politics.

January 1980
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364 pages | 6 x 9 | figures and tables |

To have a voice in shaping government policy has been a goal of the American people since the nation's founding. Yet, government seems even less accessible now than in the past. An increasing rate of incumbency in Congress, the unwieldy committee system that controls legislation, and the decline of political parties have all weakened representation and alienated Americans from the seat of power. The one remaining way to produce major and coherent change in national policy is through partisan realignment—a sharp, enduring shift in voter support of the two major parties.

This book is about the phenomenon of realignment in American politics. It not only brings together and assesses previous work in the area but also breaks new ground in the analysis of the effects of realignment on political elites and public policy. In addition, it is the first study to present an integrated theory of realignment that can be applied to the understanding of mass, elite, and policy change in times of social crisis.

Contributors include Lawrence McMichael, David Nexon, Louis Seagull, Robert Lehnen, Philip Converse, Gregory Markus, Lester Seligman, Michael King, David Brady, Kenneth Meier, Kenneth Kramer, David Adamany, Charles Stewart, Susan Hansen, and the editors.

  • Preface
  • Part I: Issues in the Study of Realignment
  • 1. Toward a Theory of Realignment: An Introduction (Richard J. Trilling and Bruce A. Campbell)
  • 2. The Structure and Meaning of Critical Realignment: The Case of Pennsylvania, 1928–1932 (Lawrence G. Mcmichael and Richard J.Trilling)
  • 3. Methodological Issues in the Study of Realignment (David H. Nexon)
  • Part II: Mass Behavioral Change
  • 4. Secular Realignment: The Concept and Its Utility (Louis M. Seagull)
  • 5. Realignment, Party Decomposition, and Issue Voting (Bruce A. Campbell)
  • 6. Realignment and Short-Term Crisis: A Case Study of Public Opinion during the Watergate Era (Robert G. Lehnen)
  • 7. Recent Evidence on the Stability of Party Identification: The New Michigan Election Study Panel (Philip E. Converse and Gregory B. Markus)
  • Part III: Elite Behavioral Change
  • 8. Political Realignments and Recruitment to the U.S. Congress, 1870–1970 (Lester G. Seligman and Michael R. King)
  • 9. Elections, Congress, and Public Policy Changes: 1886–1960 (David W. Brady)
  • 10. The Impact of Realigning Elections on Public Bureaucracies (Kenneth J. Meier and Kenneth W. Kramer)
  • 11. The Supreme Court’s Role in Critical Elections (David Adamany)
  • Part IV: The Impact of Realignment on Policy
  • 12. The Federal Income Tax and the Realignment of the 1890s (Charles V. Stewart)
  • 13. Partisan Realignment and Tax Policy: 1789–1976 (Susan B. Hansen)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Bibliography

Bruce A. Campbell taught political science at the University of Georgia. He is the author of The American Electorate.

Richard J. Trilling received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of Party Image and Electoral Behavior.