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The Logic of American Politics

The Logic of American Politics

Tenth Edition
Available with:

March 2021 | 784 pages | CQ Press
Why does the American political system work the way it does?

Find the answers in The Logic of American Politics. This bestselling text arms students with a "toolkit" of institutional design concepts—command, veto, agenda control, voting rules, and delegation—to help them comprehend how the American political system was designed and why it works the way it does. The authors build students' critical thinking through a simple yet powerful idea: politics is about solving collective action problems. This thoroughly updated Tenth Edition considers the most recent events and data, including rising political polarization, the country’s reaction to changing demographics, and Americans’ growing emotional involvement in politics. With a fresh analysis of the 2020 election results, this bestseller provides students the tools they need to make sense of the government they have.

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A Note to Students
Chapter 1. The Logic of American Politics
The Importance of Institutional Design

Constitutions and Governments

Collective Action Problems

The Costs of Collective Action

Representative Government

The Work of Government

Conclusion: Collective Action and America’s Constitution

Part I. The Nationalization of Politics
Chapter 2. The Constitution
The Road to Independence

America’s First Constitution: The Articles of Confederation

Drafting a New Constitution

Features of the Constitution

Substantive Issues

The Fight for Ratification

The Theory Underlying the Constitution

Designing Institutions for Collective Action: The Framers’ Tool Kit

Assessing the Constitution’s Performance in Today’s American Politics

Chapter 3. Federalism
American-Style Federalism

Federalism and the Constitution

The Paths to Nationalization

Modern Federalism

Evolving Federalism: A By-product of National Policy

Chapter 4. Civil Rights
What Are Civil Rights?

The Civil Rights of African Americans

The Politics of Black Civil Rights

The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

Chapter 5. Civil Liberties
Nationalization of Civil Liberties

Writing Rights and Liberties into the Constitution

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of Religion

Gun Rights

Criminal Rights


Civil Liberties as Public Policy

Part II. The Institutions of Government
Chapter 6. Congress
Congress in the Constitution

Congress and Electoral Politics

Who Serves in Congress?

Basic Problems of Legislative Organization

Organizing Congress

Making Laws

Evaluating Congress

Chapter 7. The Presidency
The Historical Presidency

The Modern Presidency

The President as Commander in Chief and Head of State

The President as Chief Executive

The President as Legislator

Going Public

The Institutional Presidency


Chapter 8. The Bureaucracy
The Development of the Federal Bureaucracy

An Expanding Government

Bureaucracy in Action

Who Controls the Bureaucracy?

Bureaucratic Reform: A Hardy Perennial

Chapter 9. The Federal Judiciary
Setting the Stage for Judicial Review

Three Eras of the Court’s Judicial Review

The Structure of the Federal Judiciary

Judicial Decision-Making

The Supreme Court’s Place in the Separation of Powers

Does a Politicized Judiciary Alter Separation of Powers?

Part III. The Public’s Influence on National Policy
Chapter 10. Public Opinion
What Is Public Opinion?

Measuring Public Opinion

The Origins of Public Opinion

Is Public Opinion Meaningful?

The Content of Public Opinion

Effects of Background on Public Opinion

Public Opinion: A Vital Component of American Politics

Chapter 11. Voting, Campaigns, and Elections
The Logic of Elections

The Slow Expansion of the Right to Vote

Who Uses the Right to Vote?

The Basic Necessities of Election Campaigns: Candidates and Messages

Campaign Money

The Logic of Elections Revisited

Chapter 12. Political Parties
The Constitution’s Unwanted Offspring

Development and Evolution of the Party Systems

Revival of the Parties: A Sixth Party System?

Expediency Persists

Chapter 13. Interest Groups
The Logic of Lobbying

The Origins of Interest Group Politics in the United States

Contemporary Interest Groups

What Do Interest Groups Do?

Interest Groups and Elections

Interest Group Politics: Controversial and Thriving

Chapter 14. Media
Development of the News Business

Legacy News as a Consumer Product: How the News Gets “Made”

Demand for and Effects of News

News Media as the “Fourth Branch”

Politician–Press Relations Then and Now

Part IV. Conclusion
Chapter 15. Is There a Logic to American Policy?
Free Riding and Health Care

The Obstacles to Taking Domestic Action to Stop Global Climate Change

The Logic of a Government Shutdown

The Prisoner’s Dilemma of Entitlement Reform

The Success and Failure of Collective Action: A Tale of Two Tax Reforms


Reference Material
About the Authors


Instructor Resource Site

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LMS cartridge included with this title for use in Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace by Desire2Learn (D2L), and Moodle

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  • Lecture notes
  • All tables and figures from the textbook 
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Student Resource Site


The open-access Student Study Site makes it easy for students to maximize their study time, anywhere, anytime. It offers flashcards that strengthen understanding of key terms and concepts, as well as learning objectives that reinforce the most important material.

Key features


  • The new edition is available as a digital option through SAGE Vantage, an intuitive digital platform that offers auto-graded assignments and interactive multimedia tools—including video—all designed to enable students to better prepare for class. Learn more.
  • Up-to-date 2020 election coverage and analysis—particularly in the chapters on Congress, the presidency, and political parties—provides students with an up-to-date understanding of the results of the 2020 elections.
  • Updated coverage of the following topics has been added: the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on federalism, the economy, the 2020 elections, and educational inequalities; mass protests following killing of George Floyd and its connection to other protest movements; environmental policies and issues; and detailed analysis of the impeachment of President Trump.  
  • An examination of President Trump’s leadership style provides students with insights on how his presidency differs from past presidencies and encourages students to reconsider the nature of presidential leadership.     
  • An increased emphasis on the collective action framework strengthens the authors approach of helping students to better understand the material.
  • Chapter-opening vignettes draw in students while effectively pointing to a chapter’s main themes.
  • A set of feature boxes strengthens the book’s analytic approach:
    • Logic of Politics boxes examine the design of various political institutions in light of the objectives they were intended to achieve.
    • Strategy and Choice boxes show how officeholders and those seeking to influence them employ institutions to advance their goals.
    • Politics to Policy boxes highlight how public policies reflect the institutions that produce them and evaluate institutional capacity to solve the nation’s problems.
  • The concluding chapter on policymaking examines the noticeable logic that guides American policy. Students glean insights into the sources of policy problems, identify possible solutions, and realize why agreement on those solutions is often so hard to achieve.
  • Robust pedagogical features strengthen the text’s analytical approach: boxed features, maps, tables, and figures make for a rich experience as students learn to analyze data; new learning objectives provide measurable takeaways; and more than 200 carefully chosen photographs bring historical and contemporary details to life.
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