Vital Statistics on American Politics


Vital Statistics on American Politics


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There is no other print source, online source, or web search engine that provides the wide range and depth of insight found in Vital Statistics on American Politics (VSAP), published since 1988. VSAP provides historical and statistical information on all aspects of American politics: political parties, voter turnout, public opinion, campaign finance, media perspective and influence, congressional membership and voting patterns, the presidency and executive branch, military policy and spending, Supreme Court and federal court make-up and caseloads, as well as foreign, social, and economic policy.

In over 230 tables and figures, students and professional researchers will find chapters devoted to key subject areas such as elections and political parties, public opinion and voting, the media, the three branches of U.S. government, foreign, military, social and economic policy, and much more. With a firehose of data available online and in many disaggregated locations, this book requires the authors to consult hundreds of sources to calculate, locate, and assemble the data, facts, and figures that offer a vivid and multifaceted portrait of the broad spectrum of United States politics and policies. For depth of information and ease of use, this volume is the best resource of its kind available and should be a key component of all academic and large public library collections.

This edition will bring some new and exciting developments. The book was traditionally published biennially, but the retirement of the book’s longtime authors, Harold Stanley and Richard Niemi, brought some challenges that required putting the book on hold temporarily. We’re now ready to embark on a new vision for the book and welcome onboard a new academic and librarian author team, Jeffrey Bernstein and Mandy Shannon, to cover the last four years. This fresh pair of eyes will allow us to look at emerging areas in political science scholarship while still updating the existing data that have proven so valuable over multiple editions.

Not only will we update with the most recent information available, but we will introduce new data literacy elements. In response to market feedback from surveys, panels, and one-on-one interviews about data literacy pedagogical needs, we intend to add 3 to 5 short essays per chapter (about 500-800 words each) that focus on understanding, evaluating, and critically appraising data, and their uses and limitations. These might focus on understanding the source of the data, or the methods by and context in which the data were collected, or on different ways to interpret the data within a table. To cite just three examples:

1. In a table of data drawn from the Census Bureau, we might write an essay that explores concerns about systematic undercounts of people from certain areas, and what that might do to Census data (such concerns, we anticipate, would include the COVID-interrupted 2020 Census and public debate about inclusion of a question on citizenship);

2. In a table focusing on partisanship, we might discuss the meaning of the term “Independent” and its link to the term “moderate.” Does a growing number of independents mean that there is a centrist core in the country? What different ways can we interpret shifting numbers of independents in the electorate?

3. In a table based on exit polling data, we might discuss challenges with getting good samples in exit polls, and hence the challenge of extrapolating from exit polls to population estimates.

In these essays, we intend to take a “guide on the side” rather than “sage on the stage” approach. The most interesting tables, in our minds, are those that leave questions about their meaning, based on how the data were collected and/or analyzed. Our role, as we see it, is not to tell the reader what to believe, but rather to raise questions, and leave the reader to do the difficult work of grappling for the meaning of the data on their own. VSAP has a richly-deserved reputation for putting valuable data into the hands of students of politics; we hope this new edition will gain a similarly strong reputation for being an important tool in teaching students how to be intelligent consumers of those data.

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American Politics | Statistics and Probability



Vital Statistics on American Politics

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