As a political sociologist, I am interested in the operation of actually-existing democracies, including processes related to public opinion, elections, and the level of legitimacy of, and degree of comprehensiveness in, welfare state policies. A good deal of contemporary political-sociological work is informed by the assumption that comparative-historical variation between welfare states, especially with reference to their effects on public social provision and civil rights/liberties, has far-reaching political and policy-relevant implications. The encompassing welfare states of Scandinavia, for instance, present an important alternative to laissez-faire democracy, and one whose relevance extends from left political parties and policy-makers to social movement actors and intellectuals.
My orientation has been influenced by the traditions of Berkeley sociology. My work is shaped by power resources theory and its variants, and by the tradition of empirical democratic theory that has emerged from U.S. political behavior research. Finally, I take seriously survey research methods and the quantitative analysis of cross-section and also panel data.
Much of my past research has investigated causal mechanisms behind the historical development of U.S. voter alignments in the postwar era. Another part of my research has analyzed structure and trends in American public opinion during the past three decades. Several new strains of research seek to situate the U.S. within a cross-national perspective to better gauge the effects of political system type, political culture, and other country-specific characteristics. In one such project I bring together comparative research on welfare states with empirical democratic theory to see whether exogenous shifts in public opinion contribute to the policy activities of national governments within the developed democracies.