Celebrating 50 Years of the Center for Political Studies

The Center for Political Studies (CPS) was launched as a research center at the Institute for Social Research in 1970. The impetus for this new center was the success of the Michigan Election Studies, and the additional political research they generated. Warren Miller, for years the principal investigator of the Michigan Election Studies, was the first director of CPS. The Michigan Election Studies eventually became the American National Election Studies, the longest running academically based survey of public opinion and political behavior in the world.

CPS quickly became much more than the location of the semi-annual election studies. Since its founding it has continued its strength in public opinion and elections, but it has also been devoted to research on international relations, violence, media and politics, institutional effects on policies and individual behavior, political development, and public knowledge and public information.

On October 29, 2020, CPS celebrated 50 years of excellence in social science research with an event featuring a keynote address by Arthur Lupia, “Now More Than Ever: The Increasing Public Value of Social Science Research.” Read a recap of this event on the CPS Blog

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Center for Political Studies, several alumni and faculty have shared their reflections on the center.

The Center for Political Studies is a place that advocates for the social sciences nationally, and its voice matters. 

Nancy Burns

Chair of the Department of Political Science, Research Professor, and former Center Director, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had throughout my career, and I owe tremendous thanks for those opportunities to my training in CPS at ISR and to my continued collaboration with CPS scholars. Countless others feel as I do, in thanks for their training and for being inspired to be the best scientists we can be. But more importantly, the empirical findings and agenda-setting scholarship that CPS has produced over decades is unmatched. What an institution! 

Jon Krosnick

Frederic O. Glover Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor of Communication and of Political Science, Stanford University

CPS has given me a terrific set of colleagues, and my research and research-related activities have benefited enormously from the resources and support that CPS provides. Some of my most important and most satisfying scholarly and professional activities would not have been possible without CPS, or at least they would have been far fewer and much less ambitious.

Mark Tessler

Research Professor and former Center Director, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

Read more by Mark Tessler

These include submitting research proposals and administering those that are successful, with a hit rate that was not nearly as strong before I came to Michigan and CPS. The institutional support provided by CPS has also enabled me to obtain and administer large grants from the U.S. Government, universities and research centers in other countries, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and others. These have supported the Arab Barometer survey project and several other large multi-country and/or over-time projects.

Finally, CPS has made it possible for me to regularly bring scholars and doctoral students from the Middle East to Michigan for a semester or a year, and also to organize capacity-building seminars and workshops for scholars from the region, holding some of these at Michigan and some in the Middle East. I can only imagine how much less I would have done in each of these areas had I not had the support provided by CPS.

On the 50th anniversary of the Center for Political Studies, I’d like to acknowledge the huge debt that I owe to the Center and to its founder Warren Miller, who taught a novice social scientist how to carry out cross-national survey research. 

Ron Inglehart

Amy and Alan Lowenstein Professor Emeritus of Democracy, Democratization and Human Rights, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

Read more by Ron Inglehart

When I first proposed a theory of intergenerational value change in “The Silent Revolution in Europe” in 1971, Warren told me “We won’t know if the theory is worth a nickel for fifteen years.” We would need to monitor the age-related differences I’d discovered for that long before we’d know whether they reflected the enduring intergenerational changes I proposed, or were simply life-cycle effects. But Warren was sufficiently interested in the theory to include my Postmaterialist values battery in the 1972 American National Election Study, testing the concept against American data as well as West European data. Warren encouraged me to continue exploring whether this value change was driving the wave of unconventional political action that had recently become prominent. 

Furthermore, Warren challenged me to develop a broader, more reliable battery of questions to measure Materialist/Postmaterialist values than the simple four-item battery used originally. Again, his method was to discuss what we needed to do and send me out to do it. When I brought my battery to him, he would criticize the result with an experienced eye and send me back to improve on it. I was also getting a master class in questionnaire design.

We agreed that the project needed to be carried out cross-nationally, and Warren had an impressive cross-national network of top survey researchers. I learned a great deal from this stimulating group of colleagues. The Political Action study was published in 1979. It has been cited thousands of times and some of its batteries have become standard survey measures. 

Working in the Center for Political Studies, under the guidance of Warren Miller, was a priceless educational experience. It prepared me to eventually found the World Values Survey, which has carried out seven waves of surveys in more than 100 countries containing over 90 percent of the world’s population. It would not have happened without the stimulation and encouragement that I received from my colleagues in the Center for Political Studies.

Warren Miller gathered around him an amazing group of very bright and capable people. That was his chief strength: recognizing talent. 

Santa Traugott

Former Study Director of the National Election Study, University of Michigan

CPS played a critical role in organizing the study of American politics, especially from the perceptive of the individual voter. 

Michael Traugott

Research Professor and former Center Director , Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

CPS was my home for 6 years. Having an office there as a grad student meant I had access to the best that Michigan offers. The constant interchange of ideas, the intellectual excitement, the conversations on the hallway, and the gatherings at the old lounge, were unparalleled in my academic experience. They defined who I am today as an academic. CPS will always have a special place in my heart.

Gisela L. Sin

Associate Professor, University of Illinois

Congrats to CPS on turning 50! As a PhD student in political science at Michigan, CPS was incredibly important in helping me develop my scholarly voice. It provided opportunities to engage a host of faculty researchers from UM and peer institutions. It provided a physical space where graduate students could work, collaborate, receive mentorship, and participate in generative discussion. Moreover, CPS and ISR facilitated a host of cross-disciplinary and cross-unit interactions that powerfully shaped my experience at Michigan. Thank you to CPS staff and faculty for their work!

Scott Allard

Daniel J. Evans Endowed Professor of Social Policy, University of Washington

My first RA assignment as a graduate student was working for the ANES in the summer of 1995, producing abstracts for the research reports of the ANES pilot studies from 1979 to 1993. I learned so much about survey research. More importantly, I felt connected to the long history of political science at CPS — it was like my rite of passage into the CPS family.

Adam Berinsky

Mitsui Professor of Political Science, Director of the MIT Political Experiments Research Lab (PERL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The American National Election Studies defined my professional career. In my first year of graduate study in the University of Chicago Department of Sociology I wrote a paper on trends in political ideology, based on the Election Studies. The paper got a B in my sociology class, and shortly after that won the national student paper competition of the American Association of Public Opinion Research. Rarely does one get such an unambiguous karmic message. I had discovered my calling. 

Ruth Jones

Emeritus Professor, Arizona State University, ICPSR Board Member, and wife of CPS founder Warren E. Miller

Read more by Ruth Jones

The methods documents and psychometric evaluations published by SRC were the gold standard for validating survey questions. I memorized the questions from the Election Studies, the NORC General Social Survey, and several Detroit Area Surveys for an in-brain random access file of survey exemplars that I used for my entire career. As time went by it was disconcerting to witness the vitiation of the sample survey industry. It began with the decline in response rates, then the Gresham’s Law impact of low-quality phone surveys fooding the market, and ultimately do-it-yourself automated internet questionnaires that allowed anyone with a cell phone to underbid professional operations. One of the final marketing pitches of my career was to a foundation deciding whether to bypass a professional survey and just provide funds to an advocacy organization to conduct its own evaluation of its own program. I committed to annually fund a dissertation fellowship in American public opinion research because even though the field has changed, the ongoing skill set is vitally important to the advancement of science. I chose the University of Michigan for the endowment because of its institutional commitment to a cluster of top-quality enterprises: CPS, SRC, ISR, ICPSR, etc.

I would like to provide a brief comment on my experiences as Center Director now more than a quarter century ago. I have wonderful memories of those times. Others will speak warmly of Warren and Phil, who were consistently supportive of the Center. Others will italicize their contributions, but I would like to offer a couple of memories about two others, Harold Jacobson and Ken Organski. Ken was someone who was a constant joy, and always kept the Center lively. I remember vividly the time he went to Phoenix, Arizona in a hurry only to discover that his conference was in Tucson. He couldn’t imagine Arizona had two major airports. Such things happened to Ken with some frequency and Barb Opal always bailed him out. Superficially, Jake was entirely different from Ken. Almost invariably, he wore a tie and blue blazer to the office. Since Jake had been my predecessor as Center Director and since we co-authored publications, I got to know him pretty well. What I remember most vividly is how well he could move paper and other people’s opinions. As a result he was prepared for almost any meeting whether it was a graduate student exam, a meeting with the Provost, or a convocation of the Center faculty. I have been pleased to be part of the evolution of the Center and look forward to its continued successes.

William Zimmerman

Research Professor Emeritus and former Center Director, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

Hard to believe, but anyone who has been in CPS for awhile knows that I have been working in CPS for a very long time, 48 years as of this past September. I started in CPS fresh out of high school. Raburn Howland and Ann Robinson took a chance and hired me. Warren Miller was Director at the time. In those early years, I had the privilege of working with some truly amazing faculty – Phil Converse, Kent Jennings, Roy Pierce, Harold Jacobson, Bill Zimmerman, Ken Organski, Sam Barnes, just to name a few. I’ve been so fortunate to have had my entire career in CPS, learning so much over the years – there were no computers in the office in 1972! I have a lot of great memories and keep adding to them. One memory is listening to the sound of faculty typing in their offices. Both Roy Pierce and Phil Converse produced entire books on their office typewriters, pretty amazing! I’ve seen graduate students leave for positions at other universities and watched their careers grow and when they return to CPS to give a talk or attend a meeting, they will stop by to say Hi to me, and I’ll say, “Yes, I’m still here.” Kind of a nice feeling. So I will end by saying CPS is a fantastic place and I could not be more happy to still be part of it.

Barb Opal

Senior Secretary , Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

The American National Election Studies defined my professional career. In my first year of graduate study in the University of Chicago Department of Sociology I wrote a paper on trends in political ideology, based on the Election Studies. The paper got a B in my sociology class, and shortly after that won the national student paper competition of the American Association of Public Opinion Research. Rarely does one get such an unambiguous karmic message. I had discovered my calling. The methods documents and psychometric evaluations published by SRC were the gold standard for validating survey questions. I memorized the questions from the Election Studies, the NORC General Social Survey, and several Detroit Area Surveys for an in-brain random access file of survey exemplars that I used for my entire career. As time went by it was disconcerting to witness the vitiation of the sample survey industry. It began with the decline in response rates, then the Gresham’s Law impact of low-quality phone surveys fooding the market, and ultimately do-it-yourself automated internet questionnaires that allowed anyone with a cell phone to underbid professional operations. One of the final marketing pitches of my career was to a foundation deciding whether to bypass a professional survey and just provide funds to an advocacy organization to conduct its own evaluation of its own program. I committed to annually fund a dissertation fellowship in American public opinion research because even though the field has changed, the ongoing skill set is vitally important to the advancement of science. I chose the University of Michigan for the endowment because of its institutional commitment to a cluster of top-quality enterprises: CPS, SRC, ISR, ICPSR, etc. 

Garth Taylor

School of American Music

Being a part of CPS gave me the courage and inspiration to take my scholarship in new directions. Happy 50th and here’s to 50 more productive years!

Anne Pitcher

Research Professor, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

As someone trained in the qualitative social sciences (specifically, anthropology), I was not a little alarmed to have found myself PI of an interdisciplinary, international collaboration researching the privatization of property rights in Tanzania. Our team spent the last decade (2010-2020) collecting fine-grained household survey data across five regions of Tanzania, in nearly 50 villages, on livelihoods, income, land access, land titling, credit access, cooperatives, energy access and more. Had I known the amount of time and labor it would take to manage the team, clean and code, analyze and archive the data, and embark on publishing our findings, I likely would have run for the hills, never to be seen again. But thankfully I found CPS, and with the encouragement and support of Ken Kollman, Dave Howell, Nancy Burns and Lori Maddox, I became a Faculty Associate and have benefitted ever since from the statistical and data management talents of Linda Kimmel and Lauren Guggenheim, the knowledge about grants and financial acumen of Pat Preston, and the all-around support of Barbara Opal. And finally, our data is organized and undergoing analysis. It would likely have been lost in cyberspace or old hard drives had I not been rescued by CPS. I am deeply grateful. Happy Birthday, CPS!!!!

Kelly Askew

Research Professor, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

This fiftieth anniversary is a perfect opportunity to reflect on how much CPS has meant to political science. Its history includes one landmark publication after another, all of them still on graduate student reading lists. It is a glorious record.

That intellectual history is well known to everyone. Hence, I’ll concentrate in this note on more personal reflections. As you know, I was a member of CPS for nearly fifteen years, and I served as acting director for a year and a half. It was a wonderful professional environment.

My experience with CPS dates to my earliest days in the profession. I arrived in Ann Arbor to attend the 1969 Summer Program when I was a first-year graduate student. Though the U.S. Army made other plans for me that summer, I did return eventually to serve as the first methods advisor to the program, and I served on the advisory committee. I also taught two years in the Summer Program.

My earliest published papers either used the American National Election Study or commented on methods developed in CPS, such as Philip Converse’s normal vote estimate. And since I was not at Michigan in those years, ICPSR (then a part of CPS) was critical to my obtaining the data I needed. Eventually, I served six years on their Council, the last two as chair.

In all these ways, my entire professional life has revolved around the work of CPS. Simply put, my career would have been impossible without it. Being appointed there for a decade and a half was a tremendous thrill.

I have so many happy memories of my time at CPS, but I’ll mention just two here. First, Steve Rosenstone and I had gone to lunch somewhere on a cold day. As we got back to CPS in my car, we ran the heater and he sat for some minutes to tell me about his idea to make the American National Election Study part of a global consortium of national election studies—what became the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. Like Warren Miller’s creation of ANES, ICPSR, and CPS itself, Steve’s idea has now had an enormous impact around the world for decades. That was the kind of creativity one saw at CPS all the time—important ideas and important institutions, developed collaboratively. I know of nowhere else like it.

Second, while I was acting director, a European political scientist dropped by and wanted a tour of CPS and ISR. So, I showed him around. Of course, there are no dramatic sights to see, and he was quite silent. I assumed he was disappointed. But at the end, he turned to me and said, quite emotionally, “I can’t believe I’m standing here in the actual ISR.” And I thought to myself, “You know what? Me neither.”

I’m sorry that none of us can be there to celebrate in person this year. But I’m hopeful that we’ll have a reunion next year. There is a great deal to celebrate from those fifty years, and I am so grateful to have been part of it.

Christopher H. Achen

Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences, Emeritus, Princeton University

Sometime in March 1996, I drove up State Street for the very first time, arriving in Ann Arbor for prospective student weekend for the PhD program in Political Science. I parked across from the Union, which was floodlit on a cool A2 mid-March evening. I fell instantly in love. My host that weekend picked me up and walked me around campus, ending this impromptu tour outside the ISR building, which he pointed to and said, “And here’s the center of Western social science.”

I can’t tell you how many times I used that same line over the seven years I gave my own version of that tour to prospective graduate students. And if ISR was the center of my social science universe, then CPS was its heart. Stepping through the CPS doors was to enter the sanctum sanctorum, a buzzing hive of the smartest, nicest people I knew. I remember sitting in Nancy Burns’s office talking about maximum likelihood, or floating to the back to Don Kinder’s to pick his brain on pretty much anything, to long hours late in the evening in Rob Franzese’s office working on a research project. Today, what I remember most of those interactions was how unserious everyone was: it was, as Chris Achen used to put it, a lunch-pail crowd — a group of the best scholars anywhere, who took their work, but not themselves, seriously. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to live my own career by, and that I’ve sought to impart to my own graduate students.

At a time when science is under attack from political elites worldwide, the importance of CPS to the public discourse cannot be understated. As its founders understood, political science is a necessary discipline in a representative democracy. For half a century, CPS has borne this burden gracefully and I have no doubt it will continue to do so for the next 50 years too. May it prosper. Go blue!

Irfan Nooruddin

Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Professor of Indian Politics, Georgetown University

I can’t imagine what my professional life would have been like had I not had the amazing opportunity to work as an Assistant Study Director at CPS from 1973 until I finished my degree in 1976. It wasn’t just the employment and mentorship by Kent Jennings, but the participation in the extraordinary community of scholars and students. I also had the opportunity to contribute to the life of CPS later when I served as PI of the American National Election Studies just at a time when NSF almost turned its back on the project — my first task was to re-secure the funding. Commuting between Madison and Ann Arbor, I was happy to become a part of CPS again.
Virginia Sapiro

Professor of Political Science, Boston University, Former Director of the American National Election Studies

As I started my faculty career at CPS, I feel that CPS is my second academic home. CPS provides me with an office, staff support, space to work with graduate students, and more importantly, the community of the best colleagues to have at the first institution as faculty I could ever imagine. While staying home due to the COVID, I really miss working physically in the CPS floor.

Yuki Shiraito

Faculty Associate, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan

I began my career as a political sociologist after a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. in sociology at Columbia University, in an atmosphere hostile to women and Jews, where I was blocked from promotions, paid less than my peers, and in Canada, subject to overt anti-Semitism.  I spent one year at Columbia, returned to Canada, and first worked in an advertising agency that had a political party as a client.  There I planned and carried out the first Canadian national election study, essentially kept secret because such activities were disparaged as too American.  I hoped to use the data for my doctoral dissertation and that was approved by my Columbia advisor, Juan Linz.  However, the party lost the election (not my fault) and refused to release the data to me.  Canada meanwhile was expanding higher education and I was hired at Calgary, then a campus of the University of Alberta, where I wrote a dissertation, published as Public Opinion and Canadian Identity.  With new interest in election studies in Canada, my work became known to the CPS team.  

After 2 years at Calgary, where my work was disparaged—the chairman of political science discouraged students from taking a course I introduced in political sociology by telling them: ”girls know nothing about politics” and a senior colleague told me “you’re a pushy Jew,” I took a position at NORC.  While not much changed as far as work conditions, I now had positive support. It began with Jim Davis recommending me to take his place on the Board of the National Election Studies and my invitation to apply for an NSF grant for a new Canadian election study.  I was accepted into CPS as a legitimate researcher and I am forever indebted to all who accepted me and gave me the strength to persist in the face of continuing hostility.  Among those to whom I wish to single out and Jerry Clubb, Warren Miller, and Philip Converse.  I was able to honor the memories of Warren and Phil by writing obituaries, as I was for two other significant supporters, Juan Linz and S. M. Lipset.

I continue to remain connected to Michigan and CPS with gratitude and fondness. 

Mildred A Schwartz

Professor Emerita, University of Illinois at Chicago

I had the personal honor of having worked with the Hanes Walton, Jr. The experience was life changing, validating, and of course, educational.

Anonymous Alumnus

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