In the foundational document of modern public-opinion research, Philip E. Converse’s "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics" (1964) established the U.S. public’s startling political ignorance. This volume makes Converse’s long out-of-print article available again and brings together a variety of scholars, including Converse himself, to reflect on Converse’s findings after nearly half a century of further research. Some chapters update findings on public ignorance. Others outline relevant research agendas not only in public-opinion and voter-behavior studies, but in American political development, "state theory," and normative theory. Three chapters grapple with whether voter ignorance is "rational." Several chapters consider the implications of Converse’s findings for the democratic ideal of a well-informed public; others focus on the political "elite," who are better informed but quite possibly more dogmatic than members of the general public. Contributors include Scott Althaus, Stephen Earl Bennett, Philip E. Converse, Samuel DeCanio, James S. Fishkin, Jeffrey Friedman, Doris A. Graber, Russell Hardin, Donald Kinder, Arthur Lupia, Samuel L. Popkin, Ilya Somin, and Gregory W. Wawro.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society.
1. Democratic Competence in Normative and Positive Theory: Neglected Implications of "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics", Jeffrey Friedman 2. The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics, Philip E. Converse 3. False Starts, Dead Ends, and New Opportunities in Public-Opinion Research, Scott Althaus 4. Democratic Competence, before Converse and After, Stephen Earl Bennett 5. Mass Opinion and American Political Development, Samuel DeCanio 6. Beyond Polling Alone: The Quest for an Informed Public James S. Fishkin 7. Government by the People, for the People, Twenty-First Century Style, Doris A. Graber 8. Ignorant Democracy, Russell Hardin 9. Belief Systems Today, Donald Kinder 10. How Elitism Undermines the Study of Voter Competence, Arthur Lupia 11. The Factual Basis of "Belief Systems": A Reassessment, Samuel L. Popkin 12. Knowledge about Ignorance: New Directions in the Study of Political Information, Ilya Somin 13. The Rationalizing Public, Gregory J. Wawro 14. Democratic Theory and Electoral Reality, Philip E. Converse