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Making Sense of a Divided America
James E. Campbell

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016

Hardcover | 2016 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691172163
336 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 9 line illus. 23 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400883448 |
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Reviews | Table of Contents
Introduction[PDF] pdf-icon

A Q&A with James E. Campbell

Many continue to believe that the United States is a nation of political moderates. In fact, it is a nation divided. It has been so for some time and has grown more so. This book provides a new and historically grounded perspective on the polarization of America, systematically documenting how and why it happened.

Polarized presents commonsense benchmarks to measure polarization, draws data from a wide range of historical sources, and carefully assesses the quality of the evidence. Through an innovative and insightful use of circumstantial evidence, it provides a much-needed reality check to claims about polarization. This rigorous yet engaging and accessible book examines how polarization displaced pluralism and how this affected American democracy and civil society.

Polarized challenges the widely held belief that polarization is the product of party and media elites, revealing instead how the American public in the 1960s set in motion the increase of polarization. American politics became highly polarized from the bottom up, not the top down, and this began much earlier than often thought. The Democrats and the Republicans are now ideologically distant from each other and about equally distant from the political center. Polarized also explains why the parties are polarized at all, despite their battle for the decisive median voter. No subject is more central to understanding American politics than political polarization, and no other book offers a more in-depth and comprehensive analysis of the subject than this one.

James E. Campbell is UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. His books include The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote and The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections.


"An excellent book on this contested and . . . polarizing . . . topic."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"Campbell has written a well-researched, highly provocative volume on American political polarization, which challenges a great deal of conventional wisdom on the subject."--Choice

"Anyone interested in this subject should read this book. . . . Campbell provides a very thorough base for understanding the debate about the sources of polarization in the past 50 years. It is an essential and excellent analysis that should be widely read."--Jeffrey M. Stonecash, Public Opinion Quarterly

"[Polarized] is a vital contribution to the literature on polarization. . . . Those looking for a cutting-edge entry point into the current state of thinking need look no further."--Matthew Glassman, Congress & the Presidency

"James Campbell explores our politics’ characteristic dividedness in an excellent new book, starkly titled Polarized, that deserves to be read widely and carefully. . . . His writing is forceful and clear, and his book is far from forbidding. . . . A better analysis of our parties’ polarization than any other I’ve seen."--Harvey C. Mansfield, Claremont Review of Books


"If recent elections have proven anything, it is how deeply polarized American voters really are. In this remarkably perceptive and probing book, Campbell explains how and why this phenomenon began and developed. You'll be surprised by some of his findings. We can't reduce paralyzing polarization until we truly understand it. Thanks to Campbell, we're much better equipped."--Larry J. Sabato, author of The Kennedy Half-Century

"Regardless of where you stand in the debate about polarization, there is no question that anyone interested in the subject must seriously engage Campbell's nuanced theoretical arguments and careful empirical analyses."--Morris P. Fiorina, Stanford University

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Table of Contents:

List of Figures and Tables ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Part One. Preparing the Foundation 13
Chapter 1. Knowns and Unknowns 15
Chapter 2. History and Theories 39
Part Two. The Polarized Electorate 59
Chapter 3. Ideology and Polarization 61
Chapter 4. Issues and Polarization 91
Chapter 5. Circumstantial Evidence 117
Part Three. The Polarized Parties 143
Chapter 6. Why Are the Parties More Polarized? 145
Chapter 7. One-Sided Party Polarization? 173
Chapter 8. Why Are the Parties Polarized at All? 197
Chapter 9. Polarization and Democracy 221
Appendix A. Five Ideological Series 247
Appendix B. Regression Analyses of Ideological Orientations 249
Notes 253
References 281
Index 309

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