By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 24, 2008; Page C01
So a bunch of academics decides to revisit one of the defining books of modern American politics, a 1960 tome on the electorate. They spend years comparing interviews with voting-age Americans from 2000 and 2004 to what Americans said during elections in the 1950s. The academics' question: How much has the American voter changed over the past 50 years?
Their conclusion -- that the voter is pretty much the same dismally ill-informed creature he was back then -- continues a decades-long debate about whether Americans are as clueless as they sound.
Reader, before you send that outraged e-mail, consider that you may be an exception. You, of course, are endlessly fascinated by the debate over domestic wiretapping, but it's possible your neighbors think FISA is a hybrid vehicle. In fact, it's quite possible your neighbors are Republicans only because that's what their parents were, and ditto for the Democrats across the street. They couldn't even mumble a passable definition of "liberal" or "conservative."
"You could get depressed," says the University of Iowa's Michael Lewis-Beck, one of the political scientists who wrote "The American Voter Revisited," released last month and inspired by 1960's "The American Voter."
Or not. Talk to other academics and it's unclear if we should be depressed at all. Many political scientists agree that the American voter doesn't always present well.