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Validity and Reliability Issues In Elite Interviewing

  • Jeffrey M. Berry (a1)

Many of the early important empirical works on policymaking in Washington were built around elite interviews. We first learned about how Congress really operates from pioneers in elite interviewing such as Lewis Anthony Dexter (1969), Ralph Huitt (1969), and Donald Matthews (1960). No less revered is the scholarship of Richard Fenno (1978), John Kingdon (1995), and Robert Salisbury (1993), who have produced enduring and respected work from elite interviewing. Yet there are few other contemporary political scientists working on public policymaking who have built reputations for their methodological skills as interviewers. Elite interviewing is still widely used as the basis for collecting data, but most interviewing depends on a few trusted templates. Most commonly, elites in a particular institution are chosen at random and subjected to the same interview protocol composed of structured or semistructured questions. For example, state legislators are asked a series of questions about their attitudes on particular issues or institutional practices. Or policymakers involved in certain issues are selected and then quizzed about those matters. Some confident and skilled interviewers, like William Browne (1988) and Richard Hall (1996), combine different interview approaches in their work but they are the exceptions and not the rule.

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Browne William P. 1988 Private Interests, Public Policy, and American Agriculture Lawrence University Press of Kansas
Dexter Lewis Anthony 1969 The Sociology and Politics of Congress Chicago Rand McNally
Fenno Richard F. Jr. 1978 Home Style: House Members in Their Districts Boston Little, Brown
Hall Richard L. 1996 Participation in Congress New Haven, CT Yale University Press
Heinz John P. Edward O. Laumann Robert L. Nelson Robert H. Salisbury 1993 The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policy Making Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press
Huitt Ralph K. Robert L. Peabody 1969 Congress: Two Decades of Analysis New York Harper and Row
King Gary Robert O. Keohane Sidney Verba 1994 Designing Social Inquiry Princeton, NJ Princeton University Press
Kingdon John W. 1995 Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies Second ed. New York HarperCollins
Matthews Donald R. 1960 U.S. Senators and Their World New York Vintage Books
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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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