National Libraries Day 2015: Richard Johnson’s thoughts on Nuffield College Library

Our final blog post for National Libraries Day is written by politics student Richard Johnson, in which he describes what he likes about Nuffield College Library and explains the reason for his book nomination:

I feel very lucky to have access to the Nuffield Library. It has a fabulous and unparalleled collection of politics books and journals. I can usually find what I need, and if the Library doesn’t have a book, they will order it for me. Amazing! The staff are always very helpful and will go at great lengths to find answers to my occasionally obscure questions. A researcher couldn’t ask for a better library.

Race, campaign politics & the realignment in the South book coverRace, Campaign Politics, and the Realignment in the South by James Glaser (shelf mark JK 2261.G)

Race, Campaign Politics, and the Realignment in the South is a brilliant example of in-depth qualitative political science research. James Glaser spends several years in the field studying congressional by-elections in the southern US. He conducts numerous interviews with election participants – from candidates and advisors to party officials and activists to trade union officials and clergy.

Glaser explains the unusual perseverance of congressional Democrats in the South, long after the national realignment of US party politics. He demonstrates that the party continued to win elections in the South due to a precarious coalition of newly enfranchised African Americans and a (diminishing) group of whites who were tribally loyal to the Democratic Party. Glaser’s detailed work captures that nuances of campaign rhetoric, showing that Democratic candidates could successfully deliver different messages to black and white communities.

Glaser admits that his subjects were ‘moving targets’ and much has changed since he conducted his research twenty years ago. The 2014 congressional elections saw the defeat of the last remaining white Democrats in the Deep South, but this does not detract from the enduring value of Glaser’s work as an historical study.

For political scientists, Glaser’s work highlights the limitations of relying merely on public opinion data and election returns. Local organisation, the experience and personality of political actors, campaign discourse, and symbolic imagery can all be important in influencing an election outcome. Glaser makes an admirable attempt to take these factors seriously.

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About Nuffield College Library

We are a social sciences library serving Nuffield College and the University of Oxford
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