The great advances in the area of ​​computers, from the middle of the 20th century, allowed a much greater facility in carrying out sample surveys covering large populations, or even entire nations with many millions of inhabitants, like the USA. Thus, research aimed at obtaining a precise and empirical basis (based on information obtained through field research) regarding the ideational reality and the social awareness of the population began to be carried out regularly in several places, especially in centers linked to large universities. One such center, perhaps the one with the most experience and the most international prestige, is the “Survey Research Center” linked to the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan, USA.

The Studies of Philip E. Converse

A well-known researcher, who worked for several years at this Center, is Philip E. Converse, who, together with three other colleagues, published in 1960 a work – which became a classic in the area – called The American Voter. USA). Philip Converse and his colleagues have several works in this field of research. Two of Converse’s well-known texts are The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics, 1964, and Public Opinion and Voting Behavior, 1975, the first of which also had become a classic in the area.

In these works, Converse and his colleagues present us with a very precise profile of some of the main characteristics of the social grasp of the American population as a whole. These works stimulated similar research in other countries, such as Political Experience and Electoral Politics in Brazil, 1977, PhD dissertation (Connecticut), by Judson M. De Cew Jr.; The Political Consciousness in  Mass Publics, 1984, MA dissertation (UFRGS), by Arnaldo Sisson Filho; and also Political Representation in France (1986), by Philip Converse in partnership with Roy Pierce.

Free Download to the complete work:

CONVERSE, Philip E. – The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.
Critical Review 18 (2006), nos. 1-3. ISSN 0891-3811. ©2006 Critical Review Foundation. Republished with permission of the author and editor.
Originally published in: David E. Apter, ed., Ideology and Its Discontents. New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964. pp. 206-261.