The image of voting in the United States developed by political scientists over the last decade differs markedly from the perspective offered in that classic study of electoral behaviour in the 1950s, The American Voter. Whereas the authors of The American Voter painted a rather unflattering portrait of the way in which the voter of the 1950s made his electoral choice, contemporary research has begun to discover some unexpected virtues in the American electorate of the 1960s and early 1970s. Compared to his counterpart in the previous generation, today's voter seems to attach less significance to his party identification, and more importance to his perceptions of the parties' stands on issues with which he is concerned, in deciding which party to support in presidential elections. Indeed, it would perhaps be only a slight exaggeration to suggest that the notion of electoral choice has now become a realistic, and not merely a metaphorical, manner of speaking about the American voter.
* University of Essex. The data analysed in this article were collected by David Butler and Donald Stokes and were made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political Research. My thanks are due to Dr Mark N. Franklin of the University of Strathclyde for his patient help with the thesis on which the article is based.