Katherine Cramer — 2018 Heinz I. Eulau, Perspectives on Politics Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Heinz I. Eulau Award to Dr. Katherine Cramer at the 2018 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline. The $750 award, supported by Cambridge University Press, recognizes the best article published in American Political Science Review and Perspectives on Politics.

Kathy Cramer is pictured in her office at the Red Gym (Armory and Gymnasium) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 1, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Katherine Cramer is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work focuses on the way people in the United States make sense of politics and their place in it. She is known for her innovative approach to the study of public opinion, in which she invites herself into the conversations of groups of people to listen to the way they understand public affairs. She earned her B.A. at UW-Madison, and joined the faculty there in 2000 after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Her book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016) examines rural resentment toward cities and its implications for contemporary politics. She has also published as Katherine Cramer Walsh and is the author of Talking about Race: Community Dialogues and the Politics of Difference, and Talking about Politics: Informal Groups and Social Identity in American Life, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. She is the recipient of the 2017 APSA Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section Giovanni Sartori Award for the best book developing or using qualitative methods published in 2016; a finalist for the 2017 APSA Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs; and the 2012 APSA Qualitative and Multi-Methods Research Section award for the best qualitative or multi-method submission to the American Political Science Review.

The Award Committee for Perspectives on Politics has awarded Katherine J. Cramer and Benjamin Toff for their article, “The Fact of Experience: Rethinking Political Knowledge and Civic Competence,” published in the September issue of the journal (Vol 15, N. 3, 754-770).

Perhaps the biggest puzzle of contemporary politics is why large numbers of citizens vote for candidates or policies that are likely to be detrimental to their own personal and economic interests. The electoral coalitions that led to the victory of Donald Trump in the US and to Brexit in the UK are probably the best-known examples of this puzzle. Building and expanding on an emerging literature, Cramer and Toff argue that explanations that focus on citizens’ inadequate information or on the predominance of identitarian issues are not fully persuasive. Cramer and Toff propose an “Expanded Model of Civic Competence” in which the personal experience of individual citizens constitutes the decisive factor in how citizens filter, interpret, and evaluate political information. To demonstrate the importance of personal experience on how citizens –including social and political elites—make sense of politics, the authors draw on three different ethnographies. Cramer and Toff also make clear the normative implications of their analysis, in favor of the ideals and the practice of inclusive democratic politics. The Committee felt that their piece offers an original point of entry into the systematic study of democratic participation and individual attitudes towards political systems, which can be fruitfully developed and incorporated by scholars working in other traditions of analysis. As such, Cramer and Toff’s article is a leading example of scholarship that fulfills Perspectives on Politics’ core mission of nurturing a “political science public sphere.”