Warren Miller Essay

Warren Miller (1924–1999) was an American scholar who focused primarily on political behavior but also made great contributions to the field of social science as a whole. Born on March 26, 1924, in Hawarden, Iowa, Miller did his undergraduate and masters work at the University of Oregon, receiving his degrees in 1948 and 1950, respectively. Miller’s doctoral dissertation on issue-oriented voting, completed at Syracuse University, used data that he helped collect for the first comprehensive presidential election survey. He spent two years teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, before moving to the University of Michigan, where he taught from 1956 to 1980.

Miller first drew attention with two books he co-wrote on electoral behavior—The Voter Decides, written in 1954 with Angus Campbell and Gerald Gurin, and The American Voter (1960). The American Voter, co-written with Angus Campbell, Donald E. Stokes, and Philip E. Converse, and their subsequent collaboration, Elections and the Political Order (1966), defined what is commonly called the Michigan school of political behavior. This school of thought coined the term funnel of causality to identify a model used to examine decision making among groups and explored the predictors of voter participation and choice. Miller and his colleagues also posited that party identification was a stable predisposition that shaped issue positions.

In 1962, Miller created the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), after he and his colleagues received numerous requests for data used in The American Voter. As the first executive director of ICPSR, Miller made the survey data readily available, and through the years the consortium continued to collect data, so much so that by the early twenty-first century, it housed the largest collection of quantitative academic data in the world. Under Miller’s auspices, ICPSR also trained new generations of scholars in survey methodology and data analysis through its yearly summer programs.

After stepping down as the head of ICPSR in 1970, Miller directed the Center for Political Studies for eleven years. The center encompassed ICPSR as well as the newly developed National Election Study (NES). As the principal investigator of NES, Miller sought to increase the scope and participation of the Michigan surveys first administered in 1952 and to standardize the questions and collection of the data in order to facilitate comparability between surveys. In 1978, Miller managed to get National Science Foundation funding for NES, thereby creating a national archive of electoral data. During the same period, Miller was elected president of the American Political Science Association (1979–1980) and president of the Social Science History Association (1979–1980), which he founded. Miller also served as a consultant for ABC News, and it was while he was serving in this capacity that he coined the term projection to describe election forecasts.

In 1981 Miller relocated to Arizona State University and began writing a series of articles on U.S. elections that were published in the British Journal of Political Science. These articles were eventually collected in his 1996 book entitled The New American Voter. He died of complications stemming from diabetes in 1999, shortly before his last book, Policy Representation in Western Democracies (1999), an edited volume, was published.


  1. Baer, Michael, Malcolm Jewell, and Lee Sigelman. Political Science in America: Oral Histories of a Discipline. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1991.
  2. Campbell, Angus, Philip Converse,Warren Miller, and Donald Stokes. The American Voter. New York:Wiley, 1960.
  3. Elections and the Political Order. New York:Wiley, 1966.
  4. Campbell, Angus, Gerald Gurin, and Warren Miller. The Voter Decides. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1954.
  5. Miller,Warren, and J. Merrill Shanks. The New American Voter. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.
  6. Shanks, J. Merrill. “In Memoriam: Warren Miller.” PS: Political Science and Politics 32, no. 2 (June 1999): 275–284.
  7. Traugott, Michael. “Obituary for Warren E. Miller, 1924–1999.” Public Opinion Quarterly 63 (1999): 590–591.

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