The National Science Foundation has awarded $10.23 million to researchers at U-M and Stanford University to conduct a series of surveys on political participation and vote choice in the 2016 presidential election.

The surveys are part of a continuing project, the American National Election Studies, which is the longest political time series in the world, with data from every U.S. presidential election since Harry Truman’s unexpected victory in 1948.

“We plan to address a number of important issues,” said U-M political scientist Vincent Hutchings, co-principal investigator of the study with colleagues Ted Brader of U-M and Simon Jackman and Gary Segura of Stanford. “Among them are the potential impact of income inequality, the role of gender attitudes given the possible candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and the growing partisan polarization in the electorate. 

“Building on our experiences in 2012, we will also continue to explore the viability of interviewing respondents on the Internet along with our traditional face-to-face interview mode.”

Describing the impact and significance of this NSF-funded research, Jackman said, “The social value of the study is that winners don’t get to write history, that instead, we have a scientific basis for talking about American political history.

“It’s not biography, or histories that focus on great events in the House of Representatives, or big pieces of policy that are passed. … (The study tells us) what was happening in the mass electorate, what people were thinking, why they were voting the way they were voting.”

The researchers will be in the field at a time when the country is undergoing the most dramatic demographic changes in the history of the study, and they plan to assess how the rapid growth of the Latino population and the prospect of a Latino presidential candidate are reshaping policy preferences and electoral choices.

“When Ronald Reagan was elected president, the national population was 80 percent white and the electorate — those who show up on Election Day — even more so,” Segura said. “Today, only about 61 percent of the population identifies as exclusively white, and on Election Day 2016, we expect only 70 percent of all voters to be white.

“So the inability to speak to what minority voters are thinking now represents a third of the population. How can we not study a third of the population?”

The American National Election Studies provide complete data from the study to scholars and analysts around the world via its website: The project also produces an online Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior useful in classrooms.