Candidates, Issues, and Strategies

A Computer Simulation of the 1960 Presidential Election

By Ithiel de Sola Pool, Robert P. Abelson and Samuel Popkin




“A new social research technique, computer simulation, was put to its first political use during the Presidential campaign of 1960. The simulation, done for the Democratic Party, involved a novel technique for processing public opinion poll data. But the simulation, besides being a step forward in the automating of opinion research, was also a field test of some theories of opinion formation.

“Because of its novelty the Simulmatics project has been the subject of a number of sensationalized newspaper and magazine articles and even of a work of fiction. The present report endeavors to correct these lurid fantasies. There was no 'people machine'; nor were there superhuman manipulators pulling magic out of computers. Responsible people, not computers, ran the campaign. What was novel was the use of a research technique allowing more intelligent understanding of voter behavior.

“Pre-election polling with scientific sampling was first applied to a Presidential campaign in 1936. By 2960, scientific polling, which George Gallup had pioneered a quarter of a century earlier, had become part of the normal arsenal of every major candidate. It was by that time a conventional operation. Scores of national surveys were conducted every year sponsored by candidates, by the mass media, and by private interest groups. Polls were even being collected in a special library, The Roper Public Opinion Research Center in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where most of the national polling organizations deposit their old IBM cards. Polling had come of age.

“In 1960 with the aid of the public opinion poll data thus being accumulated, and with the use of computers, a new research technique—simulation—came onto the scene. A description of its first and primitive political use in 2960 is the subject of this monograph. How soon and how fully this new instrument will become assimilated into the normal practice of scientists time alone will tell, but the limited experience of the first experiment already limns broadly a visage of the future.”-from Chapter 1


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262160117 167 pp. |