Anthony Downs in APSA
Alan Renwick, Shaun Bowler, ANTHONY DOWNS, Josep Colomer
The Representation and Electoral Systems section of the American Political Science Association presents the
George H. Hallett Award
which is given to “the author of a book published at least 10 years ago that has made a lasting contribution to the literature on representation and electoral systems” to
for his book
An Economic Theory of Democracy
which was published for the first time in 1957
An Economic Theory of Democracy is a seminal work. It is among the handful of most widely cited books in the entire field of political science and its impact continues to grow. This book has been immensely influential in the study of party strategies, voter choice, voter turnout, electoral system effects, and the role of information in politics. Many of its key ideas: ‘spatial’ party competition, two party convergence, the attraction of the median voter’s preference, rational ignorance, cues as information shortcuts, coalitions of intense minorities, have become part of the common stock of knowledge in the study of politics. Anthony Downs has achieved perhaps the highest accolade any academic can hope for; he has become an adjective. Even some questioned aspects of the ‘Downsian’ approach have sparked important theoretical inquiries and empirical investigations, as, for example, crucial individual decisions, such as whether to vote, for whom to vote, or which policy to choose, can be understood as strategic interactions depending on what other individuals are expected to do. Other extensions have spawned large literatures on topics such as multiparty competition, voting and elections over a multidimensional set of issues, agenda-setting, inter-institutional relations and, more generally, interactions among actors whose positions can be located within some policy ‘space’. Thousands of scholars over more than five decades have drawn inspiration from this book.
Hallett Award Committee: Josep Colomer, Bernard Grofman, Alan Renwick
Section Chair: Shawn Bowler
With grateful acknowledgement to the Georgetown University BMW Center for German and European Studies (CGES) and the University of California Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) for their sponsorship of the APSA 2011 Hallett Award Lecture.