Political Behavior and the Local Context

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The study of the effects of context--defined here as a geographically bounded social unit--on individuals is a new and rapidly developing field. This unique volume reviews this development both quantitatively and qualitatively, examines how and why individual political behavior can be influenced by various contextual characteristics of the locality in which the individual resides, and proposes a conceptual framework to guide future research. A separate chapter is devoted to exploring methodological problems unique to this field of study. This is the first study to integrate and synthesize the diverse existing research and to provide an overall approach to the field. While the authors' conclusions do not contradict the dominant views in the field, they do challenge prevailing emphases and approaches--stressing the importance of structural and global effects, the utility of an information-flow approach to contextual effects, and new methodological strategies. Even readers without strong statistical backgrounds will find this volume both accessible and informative. The volume first reviews the history of contextual studies, defining contextual analysis, and offering a taxonomy of contextual effects and then reviews relevant literature to integrate, compare, and assess the range of empirical work in the field. Chapter three constructs an overarching approach to the study of context based on the concept of information flow and is followed by a discussion of the methodological difficulties that have made the study of contextual effects a contentious one. The increasingly important area of modeling contextual effects is reviewed next and directions for future research are suggested. The final chapter looks at several understudied areas in contextual effects that could benefit from scholarly attention. Though scholarly, this readable volume is aimed at a broad audience and will be of particular interest to those concerned with political behavior, including political scientists, sociologists, urbanologists, geographers, and social psychologists.