Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Life Before Polls: Ohio Politicians Predict the 1828 Presidential Vote

  • Samuel Kernell (a1)
Extract

Candidates covet votes. They exert extraordinary effort and expend vast resources seeking to win as many votes as possible. Yet, the costly pursuit of votes occurs under great uncertainty concerning both the strategic correctness of their positions on issues and the efficiency of their campaigns. Of course, prudent candidates dedicate some resources to learning how voters are responding to their appeals, generally by commissioning polls of public opinion.

Candidates' early adoption of scientific survey technology (Converse 1987) and the important role polls play in modern campaigns invite the question of how candidates ever got on without them. Before polls, did public opinion reside on a vast terra incognita on which candidates staked out issue positions oblivious to the whereabouts of the median voter? If so, campaigns must have been riddled with mistakes and inefficiency. John G. Greer (1991) made just this argument in claiming that the absence of accurate information about shifts in the electorate's preferences allowed political parties to be blindsided by what became realigning elections.

The historical record offers few clues as to the extent to which nineteenth-century candidates labored under strategic ignorance. Yet, accounts of politicos and pundits alike tallying newspaper endorsements and carefully gauging attendance at campaign rallies do survive. However questionable these indicators' validity, even to contemporaries, they represented some of the few quantifiable barometers of voter sentiment available to that era's politicians. Some candidates kept “their ear to the ground” (a nineteenth-century dictum) by engaging in more active forms of voter research.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Asher, Herbert. 1998. Polling and the Public: What Every Citizen Should Know. 4th ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Converse, Jean. 1987. Survey Research in the United States: Roots and Emergence, 1890-1960. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Frankovic, Kathleen. 1998. “Public Opinion and Polling.” In The Politics of News, ed. Graber, Doris, McQuail, Denis, and Norris, Pippa. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Geer, John G. 1991. “Critical Realignments and the Public Opinion Poll.” Journal of Politics 53(May): 434–53.
Geer, John G. 1996. From Tea Leaves to Opinion Polls. New York: Columbia University Press.
Littlewood, Thomas B. 1998. Calling Elections. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
McCann, James A., Rapoport, Ronald B., and Stone, Walter. 1999. “Heeding the Call: An Assessment of the Mobilization into H. Ross Perot's 1992 Presidential Campaign.” American Journal of Political Science 43(January): 128.
McCormick, Richard P. 1966. The Second American Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Miller, Warren E., and Stokes, Donald E. 1963. “Constituency Influence in Congress.” American Political Science Review 57(March): 4556.
“Presidential Election.” 1824. Chillicothe Times, November 4.
Ratcliffe, Donald J. 1973. “The Role of Voters and Issues in Party Formation: Ohio, 1824.” The Journal of American History 59(March): 847–70.
Remini, Robert V. 1981. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822-1832. New York: Harper & Row.
Robinson, Claude E. 1932. Straw Votes: A Study of Political Prediction. New York: Columbia University Press.
Stevens, Harry R. 1957. The Early Jackson Party in Ohio. Durham: Duke University Press.
U.S. Telegraph. 1828. 3(126), July 9.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed