Perspectives on Politics

APSA Presidential Address

The Art of Political Science: Spatial Diagrams as Iconic and Revelatory

Henry E. Bradya1

a1 Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. E-mail:


Spatial diagrams of politics could and should be iconic for political science in much the same way as supply-and-demand curves are in economics. Many fundamental problems of political science can be connected with them, and many different concepts—such as ideological constraint, cross-pressures, framing, agenda-setting, political competition, voting systems, and party systems, to name just a few—can be illuminated through spatial diagrams. Spatial diagrams raise questions and provide insights. They suggest political maneuvers, possible realignments, and political problems. They provide us with revealing images that aid memory and facilitate analysis. They are a powerful way to think about politics, and we could not do better than to feature them in our textbooks, to use them in our research, and to exhibit them as our brand—as our distinctive way of thinking about how the world works

(Online publication June 03 2011)

Henry E. Brady is Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy and Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the ). He is immediate past president of the American Political Science Association, past president of the Political Methodology Society of the American Political Science Association, and served as director of the University of California's Survey Research Center from 1998 to 2009. His most recent book is the Handbook of Political Methodology (2008).