ANN ARBOR—The National Science Foundation has awarded $10.23 million to researchers at the University of Michigan and Stanford University to conduct a series of surveys on political participation and vote choice in the 2016 presidential election.
The project is part of a continuing project, the American National Election Studies, that is the longest political time series in the world, with data from every U.S. presidential election since Harry Truman’s unexpected victory in 1948.
“We plan to address a number of important issues,” says U-M political scientist Vincent Hutchings, co-principal investigator of the study with U-M researcher Ted Brader, and Simon Jackman and Gary Segura of Stanford University. “Among them are the potential impact of income inequality, the role of gender attitudes given the possible candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and the growing partisan polarization in the electorate. Building on our experiences in 2012, we will also continue to explore the viability of interviewing respondents on the Internet along with our traditional face-to-face interview mode.”
Describing the impact and significance of this NSF-funded research, Jackman explains that “the social value of the study is that winners don’t get to write history, that instead, we have a scientific basis for talking about American political history. It’s not biography, or histories that focus on great events in the House of Representatives, or big pieces of policy that are passed…[The study tells us] what was happening in the mass electorate, what people were thinking, why they were voting the way they were voting.”
The researchers will be in the field at a time when the country is undergoing the most dramatic demographic changes in the history of the study, and they plan to assess how the rapid growth of the Latino population and the prospect of a Latino presidential candidate are reshaping policy preferences and electoral choices.
“When Ronald Reagan was elected president, the national population was 80 percent white and the electorate–those who show up on Election Day–even more so. Today, only about 61 percent of the population identifies as exclusively white, and on Election Day in 2016, we expect only 70 percent of all voters to be white. So the inability to speak to what minority voters are thinking now represents a third of the population,” says Segura. “How can we not study a third of the population?”
The American National Election Studies provide complete data from the study to scholars and analysts around the world via its website — electionstudies.org. The project also produces an online Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior useful in classrooms.
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Established in 1949, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization, and a world leader in developing and applying social science methodology, and educating researchers and students from around the world. For more information, visit the ISR Web site at http://home.isr.umich.edu
Stanford University’s Institute for Research in the Social Sciences was founded in 2004 with the broad goal of advancing research in the social, behavioral and economic sciences that have the potential to address significant national and global challenges. The institute currently houses five centers, where research focuses on poverty and inequality, philanthropy and civil society, population studies, computational social science and American democracy. For more information, visit the institute’s website at: https://iriss.stanford.edu