Renowned Political Scientist Christopher Achen to Visit RWU on Oct. 26

Community invited to President’s Distinguished Speakers Series event featuring world-renowned scholar of elections and public opinion

Christopher Achen sitting in a classroom.
Public Affairs Staff

BRISTOL, R.I. – Voters are driven by partisan beliefs, they align with identity groups and they react to uncontrollable events such as drought or shark attacks. So their selection of leaders is much more nuanced than the ideal of citizens casting votes informed by an objective and thorough analysis of a politician’s positions on the issues. Christopher H. Achen, the renowned political scientist, will illuminate the realities of democratic politics and shatter the romantic notion of government by the will of the people during an appearance at Roger Williams University on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Members of the campus community and the public are invited to spend an evening with Achen – co-author (with Larry Bartels) of Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (2016) and the Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University – as part of the President’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Roger Williams University. In his presentation – “Why Do Elections Produce Unresponsive Government?” – Achen will dispel the notion that elections are driven by ordinary citizens’ rational policy positions, while offering a provocative alternative view grounded in political parties and identity groups.

“Achen is a world-renowned political scientist and premier methodologist whose most recent work is a groundbreaking study of how citizens choose presidential candidates and how elections work,” says RWU Professor of Political Science Robert Eisinger. “Many citizens believe that government isn’t representing them, or responding to their needs and wants. If we can have a civil, thoughtful conversation about what is responsive government and how elections work, I think we elevate the political discourse. Let’s do this on October 26 with one of the foremost scholars studying elections and representation.”

Achen is a sought-after commentator on elections and public opinion during this presidential campaign season, recently penning op-eds, along with Larry Bartels, in the New York Times (“Do Sanders Supporters Favor His Policies?”) and the L.A. Times (“The presidential primaries are out of control – and the party conventions are broken”). He has written and co-authored six books, including Democracy for Realists and The European Union Decides, as well as numerous groundbreaking scholarly articles.

He is the founding president of the Political Methodology Society, and has served on the social science board of the National Science Foundation and as chairman of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. In 2007, he received the first career achievement award bestowed from the Political Methodology Section of the American Political Science Association, and he is also the recipient a lifetime achievement award in training graduate students from the University of Michigan. He has earned fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics.

The Oct. 26 lecture will take place in the Roger Williams School of Law Appellate Court Room 283 on the University’s Bristol campus at One Old Ferry Road. The event will begin at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. For more information, call (401) 254-3154.

Launched in 2011, the President’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Roger Williams University invites thought leaders from a wide range of disciplines to share perspectives, inspire conversations and enrich the intellectual lives of students, faculty and staff at Roger Williams as well as members of the local community. As part of the series, each guest is invited to devote much of the daylong visit to direct engagement with students in classroom sessions, offering RWU students unique opportunities for one-on-one interactions with some of the world’s leading authors, scholars, artists and public servants.