Samuel Abrams

AB, Stanford University. AM, PhD, Harvard University. Fellow at the Hamilton Center for Political Economy at New York University, member of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Program on Inequality and Social Policy, research fellow with Harvard’s Canada Program. Main topics of research include social policy, inequality, international political economy, and comparative and American politics; special interest in network analysis, the media, Congress, political behavior, urban studies and cities, public opinion and survey research, political communication and elections, and the social nature of political behavior; conducted fieldwork throughout Europe and North America. Two substantial projects are presently in progress: a comparative, historical study to understand political participation in Western democracies (i.e., Why do some people vote while others do not?) and an examination of American political culture and the nature of centrism and polarization in the United States. SLC, 2010–

Courses taught in Politics

Courses from previous years

2013-2014
  • Making Parties and Policy in a Polarized Era
  • Presidential Leadership and Decision Making: Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Obama
  • Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of the ’80s
2012-2013
  • Campaigns and Elections: 2012 Edition
  • Populism and Polarization: Today and in History
2011-2012
  • First-Year Studies: The American Polity
  • Looking at Leadership and Decision Making in the Political World

Connect with Samuel Abrams

Selected Publications

  • Informal Social Networks and Rational Voting
    British Journal of Political Science, Samuel Abrams, Torben Iversen and David Soskice; April 2011 volume #41, issue #2: pp 229-257

    Classical rational choice explanations of voting participation are widely thought to have failed. This article argues that the currently dominant Group Mobilization and Ethical Agency approaches have serious shortcomings in explaining individually rational turnout. It develops an informal social network (ISN) model in which people rationally vote if their informal networks of family and friends attach enough importance to voting, because voting leads to social approval and vice versa. Using results from the social psychology literature, research on social groups in sociology and their own survey data, the authors argue that the ISN model can explain individually rational non-altruistic turnout. If group variables that affect whether voting is used as a marker of individual standing in groups are included, the likelihood of turnout rises dramatically.

  • The Big Sort” That Wasn't: A Skeptical Reexamination
    PS: Political Science & Politics, Samuel J. Abrams and Morris P. Fiorina; April 2012 volume #45, issue #2: pp 203-210

    In 2008 journalist Bill Bishop achieved the kind of notice that authors dream about. His book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, was mentioned regularly during the presidential campaign; most notably, former president Bill Clinton urged audiences to read the book. Bishop's thesis is that Americans increasingly are choosing to live in neighborhoods populated with people just like themselves. In turn, these residential choices have produced a significant increase in geographic political polarization. Bishop does not contend that people consciously decide to live with fellow Democrats or Republicans; rather political segregation is a byproduct of the correlations between political views and the various demographic and life-style indicators people consider when making residential decisions. Whatever the cause, Bishop contends that the resulting geographic polarization is a troubling and dangerous development.