Symposium on elite interviews in social science

by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Just read the 2002 Perspectives on Politics symposium on the use of elite interviews in political science (but more broadly relevant) for the first time.

Tons of useful reflections and questions asked here as part of what was originally a short course in elite interviewing organized by Beth Leech (of Basic interests: The importance of groups in politics and in political science-fame) at the 2001 APSA annual meeting.

Jeffrey Berry in his contribution makes an observation about the role of elite interviews that arguably apply to political science and political communication research too (indeed Berry has moved into pol com in recent years in his work on The Outrage Industry with Sarah Sobieraj.

“Many of the early important empirical works on policymaking in Washington were built around elite interviews. … Yet there are few other contemporary political scientists working on public policymaking who have built reputations for their methodological skills as interviewers. … they are the exceptions and not the rule.”

There is clearly plenty of room here for junior scholars to make their name and make a real contribution to the field both empirically, theoretically, and in terms of methodological reinvigoration and innovation.

It is also interesting to note that the field-specific (endogenous) discussion of elite interviews in political science and political communication research seems limited in scale and scope, and is often disconnected from other fields like sociology, management studies, etc that have very long and developed traditions of relying at least in part on elite interviews.