This critical analysis of political behavior studies has prime importance for students of social and behavioral science—as well as journalists and politicians—in view of the enormous influence of such studies.
The author finds studies that attempt to combine attitude psychology with traditional ideas about public opinion seriously wanting because of their neglect of the impact of issues as individual voters perceive them. Public opinion researchers have failed to identify motives for votes largely because they have assumed that each citizen's choices must be determined by attitudes toward matters of general concern. "They do not consider the possibility that votes might be determined by attitudes toward a variety of different matters, each of concern fairly few people."
The relationship of public opinion to government decision making also is unexplained, Dr. Chisman holds, because of the assumption that "correspondences between government decisions and public views must be due to the influence of public opinion, transmitted by members of the public elite, upon members of government." Neglected is the reverse possibility: " these correspondences might be due to the influence of government and the elite upon public opinion."