How People Vote



In Western democracies, the votes of ordinary people elect their national leaders directly. In liberal theory, the voters make those choices by comparing the policy preferences of candidates with their own preferences and vote accordingly. But as has long been known, few voters can actually do that. So, how do voters actually decide? This talk will give an overview of the past 75 years of electoral research on that topic, building on and extending Achen and Bartels, Democracy for Realists (2016).


Christopher H. Achen is an emeritus professor in the Politics Department at Princeton University, where he holds the Roger Williams Straus Chair of Social Sciences, Emeritus. His primary research interests are public opinion, elections, and the realities of democratic politics, along with the statistical challenges that arise from those fields. He is the author, coauthor, or co-editor of six books, including the international award-winning Democracy for Realists (with Larry Bartels), published by Princeton University Press in 2016, and The Taiwan Voter (with T.Y. Wang), published by the University of Michigan Press in 2017. He has also published many articles.

Achen is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1995, and has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics. He was the founding president of the Political Methodology Society, and he received the first career achievement award from The Political Methodology Section of The American Political Science Association in 2007. He has served on the top social science board at the National Science Foundation, and he was the chair of the national Council for the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) from 2013-2015. He is also the recipient of an award in 1996 from the University of Michigan for lifetime achievement in training graduate students and a student-initiated award in 2017 from Princeton University for graduate student mentoring.

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