University of Rochester

Latest Book by Rochester Political Scientist Receives Research Award

October 17, 2002

The Society for Comparative Research has awarded its 2002 prize for the best book to G. Bingham Powell, Jr., the Marie Curran Wilson and Joseph Chamberlain Wilson Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester.

Powell's book, Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions, was co-winner of the society's Mattei Dogan Award for the Best Comparative Book of the Year. The award committee called Powell's latest book "a marvelous contribution to comparative research on the links between democratic systems, votes, and policy." The committee said Powell's work "greatly enriches our understanding of democratic representation."

Elections as Instruments of Democracy (Yale University Press, 2000) explores the role that elections play in connecting the preferences of citizens and the selection of policymakers in 20 contemporary democracies. The exploration is guided by two great visions of elections as instruments of democracy. In the majoritarian vision, citizens use the election process to choose decisively between two competing teams of policymakers, providing the winner with concentrated power to make public policy, and allowing the loser only to continue to challenge in future elections. In the proportional influence vision, citizens use elections to choose political agents to represent their views in post-election bargaining.

Powell found that the encouraging message for democrats is that each design succeeds fairly well on its own terms in responsively linking election outcomes to policymaker selection. The constraint is that the respective advantages and limitations of the approaches must, to some degree, be traded off against each other.

A scholar of comparative political science, Powell has built and sustained the Department of Political Science's national reputation in comparative politics. His empirical research that draws general scientific inferences about underlying political processes across nations has attracted awards and grants.

The Society for Comparative Research is a cross-disciplinary group whose members are distinguished scholars invited from a variety of social science disciplines, including political science, sociology, economics, history, and anthropology.