Paying it Forward: Understanding the American Voter

Phil Converse

Phil Converse

Philip Converse was a young research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) back in 1960 when he collaborated with fellow ISR researchers Angus Campbell, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes to write The American Voter, a groundbreaking book that reshaped the world’s understanding of political behavior.

“I was absolutely thrilled off my feet by this marvelous new tool of survey research, which could give one snapshots of what was going on in the minds and behaviors of the American public,” Converse said. Converse remained a leader in this field throughout his career.

ISR’s Center for Political Studies (CPS) will ensure that the ideas and energy of Converse and colleague Warren Miller live on in other ways. With early financial support from Converse, CPS created the Philip Converse and Warren Miller Fellowship in American Political Behavior, to be given annually to a U-M graduate student to pursue research on elections, public opinion, or representation.

Contributing to a student fellowship was a natural move for Converse, given his formative experiences as a student and young academic at ISR in the 1950s and ‘60s. “I felt like a kid in a candy shop,” Converse said. “I felt I had come to exactly the right place at exactly the right time.” The Fellowship, he says, should help students continue to make breakthroughs in understanding American voting behavior.

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