Studying Contingency Systematically
Prepared for Governing in a Polarized Age: Elections, Parties, and Political Representation in America, edited by Alan Gerber and Eric Schickler, Cambridge University Press, 2014 Forthcoming
27 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2014
Date Written: April 30, 2014
In a series of articles and books, David Mayhew has argued convincingly that "in the realm of primitive building blocks, there is a case for ranking events as the equals of interests and preferences in a seriously explanatory political science." We develop that insight byexamining the cases of gun control, global warming, and others. Our goal is to determine when and how unique events can spur opinion change, and when and how such opinion change can eventuate in new laws, rules, or rulers. We do not fully succeed, since the task is too great for a single chapter. But the cases enable us to develop a decision tree with crucial points for empirical study, in order to help scholars develop more systematic understandings of when, how, and why, contingency matters in political processes and outcomes.
Keywords: political contingency, gun control, global warming, public opinion, policy outcomes
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