The People's Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign (Legacy)

The People's Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign (Legacy)

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Author/Contributor(s): Lazarsfeld, Paul F
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Date: 01/19/2021
Binding: Paperback
Condition: NEW
The People's Choice is a landmark psychological and statistical study of American voters during the 1940 and 1944 presidential elections, originally published in 1948. Amid a burgeoning interest in statistics and population sampling, it constituted the first systematic effort to trace voters' behavior across the duration of a presidential campaign and to follow up on this data years later.

During the 1940 campaign, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet tracked a sample population of six hundred people from Erie County, Ohio, interviewing them monthly in the seven months leading up to Election Day. Their subsequent study in 1944 expanded the sample to include a nationwide cross-section of two thousand voters. Contrary to the fears of the time, Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet found that media such as newspapers, radio, and campaign advertising did not have a profound influence on individual voting habits. Instead, interpersonal interactions and word of mouth were more significant for most voters. They argued that mass media reached a small but crucial subset of people, who then passed information on to less avid media consumers.

The study paired the same interviewers and interviewees over time, leading to remarkable extended conversations that feature more casual and exploratory discussions than were typical of social-scientific research. Quoted verbatim, they offer additional insight into the American electorate. A groundbreaking work of empirical political science, The People's Choice remains of great importance in an era of anxiety about the influence of media on voting behavior.