An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Fall 2012

Public Opinion at the Macro Level

Robert S. Erikson
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My book “The Macro Polity,” coauthored with Michael B. MacKuen and James A. Stimson and published in 2002, depicts the dynamics of public opinion and electoral politics in the United States at the macro level; the analysis is based on micro-level foundations of micro-level political behavior. This essay presents the book’s main arguments, in some instances extending the analysis beyond its original 1956–1996 time frame to incorporate data from the George W. Bush administration. The central thesis is that there is more rationality and predictability to American politics when viewed in the aggregate than one might infer from considering only the limited political awareness of the average citizen.

ROBERT S. ERIKSON, a Fellow of the American Academy since 2007, is Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His publications include The Macro Polity (with Michael B. MacKuen and James A. Stimson, 2002), American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact, 8th ed. (with Kent Tedin, 2011), and The Timeline of Presidential Elections: How Campaigns Do (and Do Not) Matter (with Christopher Wlezien, 2012).