Election Studies: What's Their Use?

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Academic studies of elections are not in the business of predicting outcomes. They are in the business of explaining them. The best studies treat voting data as raw material with which to explore socio-psychological processes such as individual decision-making and such sources of influence as issues, personality, media, socio-economic background, and party loyalty. The ebb and flow of ideologies and the comparative workings of different political systems are core topics on which election studies shed light. Looking back on more than fifty years of voting research, some of its major practitioners and critics reflect here on what has- and has not- been accomplished.