Election 101 — Who Votes and Why


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Ultimately, voters, not candidates, rule the day in any election and millions of dollars are currently being spent to identify who these voters are and what matters most to them. Campaigns need to know how to reach the electorate and how to tailor candidates’ messages to garner the most votes. While polling gives snapshot views of voter response to issues, what’s missing is the long-term assessment of voting patterns and populations. Fortunately, Princeton University Press has numerous books that blend data and the big picture.

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is a landmark book from statistician Andrew Gelman that presents data on the influence of party affiliation, location, and religious beliefs on voting patterns.

Politicians talk about whether we are in a post-racial period following President Obama’s election in 2008, yet books like Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama’s America by Desmond S. King & Rogers M. Smith provide an authoritative account of exactly how race still matters.

Campaigners describe how they are going to reach Hispanic or religious voters, but without books like New Faces, New Voices: The Hispanic Electorate in America by Marisa Abrajano and Michael Alvarez or Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church by Timothy Matovina that describe shifts in populations and politics, how can they know what really matters to these voters?

And when we try to assess the issues that matter the most to voters, it is important to have the input of writers like Bryan Caplan (The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies) or Sunshine Hillygus and Todd Shields (The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns).

–Chuck Myers, group publisher in social sciences and editor in political science


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Excerpted from The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History.


Featured Book


Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State
Why Americans Vote the Way They Do
Andrew Gelman


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The Reading List

New Faces, New Voices

The Hispanic Electorate in America
Marisa A. Abrajano & R. Michael Alvarez
America’s Crisis of Values

Reality and Perception
Wayne E. Baker
The Politics of Happiness

What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being
Derek Bok
The Ethics of Voting

Jason Brennan
Why We Vote

How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life
David E. Campbell
The Myth of the Rational Voter

Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
Bryan Caplan
Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State

Why Americans Vote the Way They Do
Andrew Gelman
The Persuadable Voter

Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns
D. Sunshine Hillygus & Todd G. Shields
Creating a New Racial Order

How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America
Jennifer L. Hochschild, Vesla M. Weaver & Traci R. Burch
Pocketbook Politics

Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America
Meg Jacobs
Still a House Divided

Race and Politics in Obama’s America
Desmond S. King & Rogers M. Smith
Strength in Numbers?

The Political Mobilization of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
Jan E. Leighley
Latino Catholicism

Transformation in America’s Largest Church
Timothy Matovina
Not Even Past

Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
Thomas J. Sugrue
Red State Religion

Faith and Politics in America’s Heartland
Robert Wuthnow

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