David R. Mayhew

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David R. Mayhew
Born (1937-05-18) May 18, 1937 (age 85)
EducationAmherst College (BA)
Harvard University (PhD)
OccupationYale University Sterling Professor of Political Science
RegionAmerican politics
ThesisDemocrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives: A Study in Intra-Party Coalition Patterns in the Postwar Period (1964)
Doctoral advisorV. O. Key, Jr.
Main interests
Notable ideas

David R. Mayhew (born May 18, 1937) is a political scientist and Sterling Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Yale University.[2] He is widely considered one of the leading scholars on the United States Congress, and the author of nine influential books on American politics, including Congress: The Electoral Connection.[3] In 2017, University of California, Berkeley professor Eric Schickler chronicled Mayhew's lifetime of contributions to the study of Congress in a journal article published in The Forum.[4] Mayhew has been a member of the Yale faculty since 1968, and his students include several leading contemporary scholars of American politics, including the University of California, San Diego professor Gary Jacobson, Yale professor Jacob Hacker, and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law professor Steven Calabresi, as well as many famous figures such as Detroit Lions Pro Bowl quarterback Greg Landry and CNN personality Chris Cuomo.[5] He has also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Oxford University, and Harvard University.[6]


In Congress: The Electoral Connection, Mayhew argued that much of the organization of the United States Congress can be explained as the result of re-election seeking behavior by its members. In Divided We Govern, he disputed the previously accepted notion that, when Congress and the presidency are controlled by different parties, less important legislation is passed than under unified government. The book won the 1992 Richard E. Neustadt prize.[7] Princeton professor R. Douglas Arnold, another student of Mayhew's, noted that the academic literature on Congress can be cleanly categorized as coming "before" or "after" Congress: The Electoral Connection.[8]

His 2011 book, Partisan Balance: Why Political Parties Don't Kill the U.S. Constitutional System (Princeton University Press, 2011), contends that majoritarianism largely characterizes the American system. The wishes of the majority tend to nudge institutions back toward the median voter. Partisan Balance won the 2011 Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Award from the American Political Science Association.[9]

In his most recent work, The Imprint of Congress, Mayhew makes a case for studying the consequences of Congress's activities, not just the aspirations, processes, and optics associated with those activities. The book analyzes congressional participation in a series of policy impulses that have invested the United States from the 1790s through recent times.

Education and awards[edit]

Mayhew earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1964, and his B.A. from Amherst College in 1958. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6] In 2002, he received from the American Political Science Association the James Madison Award, which, awarded triennelly, "recognizes an American political scientist who has made a distinguished scholarly contribution to political science."[10] In 2004, he received the Samuel J. Eldersveld Award for lifetime achievement also from the American Political Science Association.[11] In 2018, Mayhew was awarded the American Political Science Association Barbara Sinclair Legacy Award for a lifetime of significant scholarship to the study of legislative politics.[12] In 2007, Mayhew was elected to the American Philosophical Society,[13] and on April 30, 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, completing the prestigious "trifecta" of academic honors in the social sciences.[14]


  • "If a group of planners sat down and tried to design a pair of American national assemblies with the goal of serving members' reelection needs year in and year out, they would be hard pressed to improve on what exists."
  • "As an expressive institution Congress, in short, is noisy, versatile, and effective."
  • "Probably half the adverse criticism of Congress by elites is an indirect criticism of the public itself."
  • "It is not a minor matter that contingency, strategy, and valence issues tend to infuse elections."
  • "Assertion butts up against indifference, and assertion wins."
  • "'Party Government' plays a role in political science somewhere between a Platonic form and a grail."


  1. ^ Mayhew, David (1974). Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-3001-0587-2.
  2. ^ "David Mayhew | Department of Political Science". politicalscience.yale.edu. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  3. ^ Dooley, Kevin (2014). Why Politics Matters: An Introduction to Political Science. Cengage Learning.
  4. ^ Schickler, Eric (2017). "David Mayhew and the Study of Congress". The Forum. 15 (4): 753–770. doi:10.1515/for-2017-0051. S2CID 199061648.
  5. ^ "PoliSci Tree - David R. Mayhew Family Tree". academictree.org. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  6. ^ a b "David Mayhew | Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University". campuspress.yale.edu.
  7. ^ "Welcome | Yale University Press". yalebooks.yale.edu.
  8. ^ ""Wisdom and Humility:" A Fitting Tribute to David Mayhew | Institution for Social and Policy Studies". isps.yale.edu. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
  9. ^ "David Mayhew Wins the 2011 Leon D. Epstein Award". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-02-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Political Organizations and Parties Organized Section Samuel Eldersveld Career Achievement Award Recipients". Archived from the original on 2013-05-12.
  12. ^ "Barbara Sinclair Legacy Award – Legislative Studies (Section 3)".
  13. ^ http://www.amphilsoc.org/memhist/search?creator=mayhew;smode=advanced;f1-date=2007[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Hathaway, Bill (May 1, 2013). "Three Yale faculty elected to the National Academy of Sciences". YaleNews.


  • Party Loyalty among Congressmen, (Harvard University Press, 1966)
  • Congress: The Electoral Connection, (Yale University Press, 1974; reissued 2004)
  • Placing Parties in American Politics, (Princeton University Press, 1986)
  • Actions in the Public Sphere, (Yale University Press, 2000)
  • Electoral Realignments: A Critique of an American Genre (Yale University Press, 2002)
  • Divided We Govern: Party Control, Lawmaking, and Investigations, 1946-2002, (Yale University Press, 2005)
  • Parties and Policies: How the American Government Works (Yale University Press, 2008)
  • Partisan Balance: Why Political Parties Don't Kill the U.S. Constitutional System, (Princeton University Press, 2011)
  • The Imprint of Congress, (Yale University Press, 2017)

External links[edit]