Abstract: Recent decades have seen a dramatic growth in the number of experiments conducted in political science. In part, this trend reflects technological changes that have reduced the real cost of conducting surveys with experimental variations or accessing large pools of subjects via online labor markets. The advent of experimental research also reflects a profound change in scholarly objectives, notably the "credibility revolution" that has swept the social sciences and focused new attention on the challenges of establishing causation. Increasing demands for credible demonstrations of cause-and-effect have led researchers to conduct experiments unobtrusively in real-world settings, thereby reducing (though not eliminating) the need to extrapolate from the experimental setting to the treatments, subjects, and outcomes of theoretical interest.
As experimental research in political science has matured, the range of scholarly questions that are investigated in real-world settings has expanded beyond initial studies of electoral behavior in the United States to non-electoral behavior, elite behavior, and institutional design in a wide variety of countries. The resulting growth in reliable evidence has propelled stalled theoretical debates and brought about unprecedented cross-fertilization across social science disciplines.
This Roundtable is sponsored by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP)