Converse, Philip E., 1928-

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Social psychologist and political scientist, professor of sociology and political science at the University of Michigan, and director of the University's Institute for Social Research.

From the description of Philip E. Converse papers, 1948-1989. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34419829

Philip Ernest Converse was born in Concord, New Hampshire, on November 17, 1928. He attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in English in 1949. The following year he received a master's degree in English literature from the State University of Iowa. Six years later, after a period of study in France, he enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1956 to pursue his interest in the social sciences, and earned a M.A. in sociology in 1956, followed by a Ph.D. in social psychology in 1958. In 1951, he married Jean G. McDonnell, a social scientist expert in interviewing techniques.

Converse joined the University of Michigan faculty as an assistant professor of sociology in 1960, was appointed associate professor of political science in 1963, and associate professor of sociology in 1964. Quick to establish a reputation as an outstanding social psychologist and empirical political scientist, he was appointed professor of sociology and political science in 1965. He was named the Robert C. Angell Professor of Political Science and Sociology in 1975, and Robert Cooley Angell Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and Sociology in 1982. He was selected as the 1987 Henry Russel Lecturer, the University's highest honor given to a senior faculty member. The University of Michigan Research Club, when nominating Converse for the award, summarized his contributions by noting, "Professor Converse made many contributions to the development of the Michigan Program, which 25 years ago revolutionized political science research. The great innovation of this program was its heavy emphasis on quantitative methods applied to empirical research, in general, and to survey research, in particular. It was unique at that time, but subsequently became the model copied in numerous other departments in this country and in Europe. This 'movement' brought political science into much closer intellectual contact with sociology, social psychology and economics."

Converse is also well known for his work with the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR). Converse began his affiliation with the institute as assistant study director of the Survey Research Center in 1956, and by 1986 had been appointed director of the institute. While en route to the directorship he headed several of the institute's important components. In 1962 he was named associate director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political Research, a partnership between the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan and several other universities in the United States. He was named program director of the Survey Research Center in 1965, and director of the Center for Political Studies in 1982. When he assumed his duties as institute director, he did so at a crucial time when federal funds for social research were being slashed. The institute relies almost entirely on non-university grants and contracts to carry on its work, and he was instrumental in securing a number of new funding sources. He also strengthened the ties between the institute and the university by drawing on the research skills of university professors from various departments and schools.

Converse is the author of numerous books and articles on a wide range of political and sociological topics. Many of his works are considered standards in their fields. His book The American Voter (coauthored with Angus Campbell, Warren E. Miller and Donald E. Stokes) is considered a classic. It pioneered the use of new methods to describe voting behavior in the United States. Vietnam and the Silent Majority (coauthored with Milton Rosenberg and Sidney Verba) and The Human Meaning of Social Change (with Angus Campbell) were innovative works in group political behavior. The Quality of American Life (coauthored with Angus Campbell) studied Americans' sense of well-being. His work not only encompasses the United States but other nations as well, such as his award-winning Political Representation in France (coauthored with Roy Pierce). His articles have appeared in a variety of well-known scholarly books and journals. Among his most influential articles are, "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics," which has had enormous influence on research in the field of political ideology, and "Of Time and Partisan Stability," which demonstrated the linkage between family socialization and individual partisan identification.

In addition to his research contributions, Converse has made distinguished contributions as a statesman of the social sciences. He has served on numerous committees of the many professional, public service, and honorary organizations in which he is active. These include The American Political Science Association, The American Sociological Association, The Social Science Research Council, and The National Research Council. He was president of the American Political Science Association in 1983-84 and of the International Society of Political Psychology in 1980-81.

Converse has received many awards during his career. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from Denison University and the University of Chicago, and has been awarded numerous fellowships, including the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and Russell Sage. He is an elected member of such notable societies as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Science.

Converse left the University of Michigan in 1989 to become director of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California. He was chosen from a field of some 150 candidates in a nationwide search for a new director. The independent research center is near the campus of Stanford University, and is considered one of the nation's most prestigious "think tanks."

From the guide to the Philip E. Converse papers, 1948-1989, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Melich, Tanya. Tanya M. Melich papers, 1950-2000. University at Albany, University Libraries
referencedIn Institute for Social Research Oral History Videotapes and Transcripts, 1997-1998 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Institute for Social Research oral history videotapes and transcripts, 1997-1998. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Institute for Social Research (University of Michigan) records, 1936-1992. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Philip E. Converse papers, 1948-1989 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Converse, Philip E., 1928-. Philip E. Converse papers, 1948-1989. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Institute for Social Research (University of Michigan), records, 1936-1992, 1946-1986 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Social psychology


Birth 1928




Ark ID: w6j697qk

SNAC ID: 61284359