Political Science Now

Interdependence, Communication, and Aggregation: Transforming Voters into Electorates

The 2016 Ithiel de Sola Pool Lecture: Interdependence, Communication, and Aggregation: Transforming Voters into Electorates

by Robert Huckfeldt, University of California, Davis

Random samples of discrete, independently drawn citizens encourage an atomized view of democratic electorates. While this may be perfectly adequate for many purposes, the problem remains that relatively few voters are independent of their social surroundings.  To the contrary they are imbedded within networks of politically consequential social communication.  These networks are, in turn, shaped by the political and social composition of larger units of aggregation — states, communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, worship communities, and more.  Hence,

rather than viewing the electorate as an assemblage of discrete, independent individuals, a primary task for students of democratic politics is to understand the creation of groups and electorates in terms of politically interdependent citizens.  This involves not only a different way of thinking about electoral politics, but also innovations in the way that we observe voters, groups, and electorates.

Read the full article.

PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 50, Issue 1 / January 2017, pp. 3-11


Robert Huckfeldt is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Davis, and he received his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.  His primary research interests include participation, communication, and political decision-making among citizens, as well as the role of groups in politics.  He is currently engaged in a study of political coalitions and social welfare policy in American politics.  He is the author or coauthor of Politics in Context (Agathon 1986); Race and the Decline of Class in American Politics with Carol Kohfeld (Illinois 1987); Citizens, Politics, and Social Communication with John Sprague (Cambridge 1995); Political Disagreement (Cambridge 2004) with Paul Johnson and John Sprague; Experts, Activists, and Democratic Politics (Cambridge 2013) with T.K. Ahn and John Ryan; and a series of research articles and essays.  He is the recipient of the APSA Schattschneider Dissertation Award, as well as book awards from the APSA Political Communication Section and the APSA Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior Section.  He formerly served as chair of the Departments of Political Science at the University of California at Davis and Indiana University, as well as past director of the University of California Center in Sacramento.