Piven and Cloward are right. Someone is confused. Readers of PS can decide who. Piven and Cloward claim they have been misunderstood. They say their goal, particularly in Why Americans Don't Vote, was to highlight the inadequacies of three “schools” of turnout studies, “party behavior,” “legal-institutional,” and “social-psychological,” and to suggest a “synthesis” of those approaches.
“Misunderstanding,” it seems, is widespread. At least two reviews of their book (Wattenberg, 1989; Pomper, 1989) faulted Piven and Cloward for failing to explain why, if personal registration is the main reason for low turnouts, voting has fallen during a period of liberalized statutes and for a “quick dismissal of attitudinal variables” (Wattenberg). Pomper (p. 1398) noted that Piven and Cloward “contemptuously dismiss (socialpsychological) explanations as ‘normal science’ and ‘the witless use of multiple correlational analyses,’ asserting instead that ‘the political context determines whether these factors will have a significant effect on participation’ ([Piven and Cloward, 1988b:] 117–120).” Bastedo (1989) interpreted Piven and Coward's 1989 article as strictly an attack on registration laws.