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Political Book: Alan Abramowitz’s “The Disappearing Center”


Alan Abramowitz is an American political scientist. He was born in 1947. He is well known for his research and literary works. Most of his studies revolve around American politics and elections. In addition, they also focus on political science and parties. Abramowitz studied BA at the University of Rochester. He graduated in 1961 with High Honors in Political Science. Later on, he enrolled for graduate school at Stanford University.

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He graduated with a Masters in 1972. In 1976, he completed his PhD degree from the same institution. The current paper is a review of one of Abramowitz’s books. The text is “The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy”. The book was published in 2010 by Yale University Press. In the text, Abramowitz focuses on the trends associated with American politics, political parties, and elections.

The major theme addressed by Abramowitz entails how modern voters take their ideologies seriously (4). He considers Americans as people with a lot of interest in political matters and public affairs. He also believes they are politically dynamic. Abramowitz’s “The Disappearing Center” is a very enriching book. The reason is because it focuses on the American democracy, engaged citizens, and polarization. Generally, it explains the ‘shift’ of voters to the extremes during the past five decades.

Abramowitz’s Legacy in the Academic Field

Abramowitz has written a number of books in the past. Between 1976 and 1982, he worked at the College of William and Mary. From 1982 to 1987, he taught at Stony University. He then became a Political Science professor at Emory University. In 1993, he was granted the Alben W. Barkley Distinguished Chair in Political Science in the same institution. Abramowitz has authored and co-authored a total of five books. His widely acknowledged text is “Senate Elections”.

The book was published in 1992. It was co-authored by Jeff Segal of Stony Brook University. The book received two honors from the Union of Political Science. It is regarded as one of the most influential texts in the study of senatorial elections. Abramowitz has also written widely on a number of other topics. They include American politics, activism, ideology, and polarization. Other areas include presidential, senate, and house elections, as well as incumbency, partisanship, and redistricting. Generally, Abramowitz publishes an analytical replica of elections.

His works are based on his model of time for change. Since the 1980s, the model has generated precise results when used in predicting election results. Like “the Disappearing Center”, the other works by Abramowitz help people better understand the American political terrain. Abramowitz argues that the political division in America is not between left and right (32). On the contrary, it is between the engaged and the unengaged publics.

Abramowitz’s “The Disappearing Center”: A Review

An Overview

The book is composed of eight chapters. Each chapter addresses its own unique issues. The first section is titled Polarization in the Age of Obama. Here, Abramowitz states that the 2004 presidential race saw increased partisanship in America (4). He believes that President Bush was a polarizing figure at the time. Only a small number of voters were ambivalent (Abramowitz 16). Bush won the 2004 presidential race by a very narrow margin. He got 50.7 percent of the popular votes and 286 electoral votes (Abramowitz 1).

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On the other hand, his Democratic competitor garnered 48.3 percent of the popular votes and 252 electoral votes. Abramowitz notes that even after the victory, America continued to be divided. President Bush made little effort to reconcile with John Kerry. In 2008, President Barrack Obama took over from Bush. He promised to revolutionize Washington’s partisan practices. He tried to get in touch with the Republicans in vain (Abramowitz 3). The reason is that the Republican and Democratic parties’ ideologies were very different. According to Abramowitz, polarization will exist for a long time to come.

The second chapter is about The Engaged Public. Abramowitz highlights the development of differences in political engagement in America. He uses facts from the ANES regarding interest in politics and knowledge of party positions. Abramowitz shows how the public engaged in politics in 2008. He presents evidence of deep divisions during President Bush’s term. Generally, Abramowitz stresses that the major explanation for the divisions was the existence of high levels of partisan-ideology polarization (13). He is of the view that the state is less likely to be modified even under a new president.

The third chapter is Partisan-Ideological Polarization. Alan looks at the meanings and measurement of polarization. He presents facts and findings on the increased divisions among individuals engaged in politics. Abramowitz argues that there are two components of polarization (32). The first entails the importance of spelling out what splits the people. The second involves identification of the group that is polarized. He argues that party leaders and officials are the key sources of cues for people interested in policy matters. In addition, Abramowitz stresses that the key elements in any election are the citizens (33).

The fourth chapter of the book is Polarization and Social Groups. It analyses the manner in which changes in partisan ideologies have shaped party loyalties among major social groups. The American party structure has changed a lot within the last 50 years (Abramowitz 60). Black-Americans make up the only voting group that is based on identity as opposed to creed. White Americans consider various factors as major predictors of voting trends. They include gender, marital status, and commitment to religion. The chapter stresses that Black-Americans are the only social group that mostly support the Democratic Party.

The fifth chapter is Polarization and Elections. It analyses the effects of increasing partisan ideological divisions on elections. Abramowitz shows how the number and population of states where a single party becomes dominant have increased. He bases his arguments on a survey that began in the 1970s. The south is dominated by the Republicans, while the Northeast remains a Democrat’s zone (Abramowitz 84). According to Abramowitz, most people link polarization to the growth of safe districts. He goes forth to cite a study conducted between 2000 and 2002. The survey showed that non-partisan regions have more safe districts compared to partisans. In this chapter, Abramowitz argues that the officials likely to resist change are those who cling to mainstream creeds.

Chapter six is about Polarization in a Changing Electorate. It focuses on the future impacts of the developments discussed in the previous chapters. It looks at how the end of Bush’s reign will influence partisan variances and election competitions. The chapter stresses that the conduct of 2008 presidential candidates is likely to influence the future of partisan-ideological divide. During the election campaigns, it appeared like two candidates were vying for presidential posts in two different countries (Abramowitz 115). The main reason behind this point of view is the fact that both candidates had totally different ideologies on how to run American affairs.

Chapter seven of the book is about Polarization and Representation. Abramowitz compares the 95th and 108th Congresses. In the 95th Congress, the Democrats were considered to be the strong liberals. The Republicans were viewed as the major conservatives. During the 108th Congress, the percentage of strong liberals grew to 51. Conservatives increased to 63 percent. In the 108th Congress, marginal District Representatives were just as polarized as their counterparts from safe regions (Abramowitz 145). In this chapter, Abramowitz brings back the question of redistricting, which was raised in chapter five.

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The final chapter is about Polarization and Democratic Governance. Abramowitz analyzes the effects of growing partisan-ideological split on 21st century American democracy. In addition, this section looks at the consequences of partisan-creed polarization on democratic politics. Abramowitz addresses the issue of popular participation and elite responsiveness (151).

Strengths and Weaknesses of Abramowitz’s Text

Judging by the issues addressed by Abramowitz, it is apparent that “The Disappearing Centre” is indeed an informative book for people with interest in politics. The main reason is because of the text’s major strengths. Abramowitz presents a conclusive work on the effects of a divided body of voters on elections and policy making (49).

He clearly explains the issue of political polarization in a manner that is easily understood. He analyses the most burning issue related to American politics. However, the major weakness of the book is the fact that it focuses more on the political aspect of American elections. Abramowitz seems to ignore the fact that other issues, such as economic and social dynamics, affect voting patterns in America.


Abramowitz tops the list of the most convincing and original authors on American politics. The book “The Disappearing Center” provides the reader with a clear picture of the effects of political and ideological divisions. The text is a resourceful piece of literature for students and scholars interested in political matters. In the book, Abramowitz focuses on American voters and other people concerned about the government.

Works Cited

Abramowitz, Alan. The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy, New Haven: Yale UP, 2010. Print.

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