Professor's Quest keynote to critique presidential primary system

Bruce AltschulerSUNY Oswego political science Professor Bruce Altschuler, an author and widely quoted expert on elections, will ask “Isn’t There a Better Way to Pick Our President?” as the keynote speaker at Quest on April 23.

Altschuler’s keynote, at 1 p.m. in the Campus Center auditorium, is one of about 180 sessions in Quest, the annual celebration of scholarly and creative pursuits of the SUNY Oswego campus community. [UPDATE: April 22, Replaced due to illness by Shashi Kanbur]

“I’ll be looking at the current process of selecting presidential nominees—how it has evolved and what its flaws are,” Altschuler said. “I conclude that these flaws have become so serious that it’s time to give another look to a national primary which would solve many existing problems.”

He said while 50 years of polls have shown “a strong majority of the public favors a national primary,” all bills introduced in Congress, including one Woodrow Wilson supported 95 years ago, stalled.

Altschuler’s talk will draw on “Selecting Presidential Nominees by National Primary: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?,” which he presented at the American Politics Group in London and ran as an article earlier this year in The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Forum.

“My speech will be given the day after the Pennsylvania primary, making it particularly relevant in light of this year’s very messy and extremely expensive contests for the Democratic and Republican nominations,” Altschuler said.

“We owe the many students who have been excited enough to work for candidates this year a process they can be proud to have participated in,” he said.

Jack Gelfand, SUNY Oswego’s director of research and development and coordinator of Quest, said Altschuler will share stories from previous years and put the issue into perspective. “Every day that goes by, the topic becomes more relevant, especially with the Michigan and Florida primaries being up in the air,” Gelfand said. “Michigan and Florida defied the Democratic National Committee in holding early primaries because they didn’t think the primary system was working.”

Altschuler’s influential books include “Keeping a Finger on the Public Pulse: Private Polling and Presidential Elections,” “LBJ and the Polls” and “Running in Place: A Campaign Journal.”

His many scholarly articles have appeared in such prominent journals as American Review of Politics and White House Studies and cover topics ranging from election issues to presidential plays.

Altschuler’s knowledge is in demand with media sources, and he has served as a political analyst for public radio station WRVO since 1984 and as a regular commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Wisconsin Public Radio. He has been quoted in many U.S. dailies; wire services including the Associated Press, Gannett News Service and Bloomberg News; and international media such as the London Observer, the Columbian paper Semana and French newspaper Liberation.

Altschuler was educated at City University of New York, following service with the U.S. Army in Vietnam and West Germany. He earned his doctorate in 1980, writing his dissertation on “Political Polling and Presidential Elections.” He was a National Science Foundation fellow from 1972 to 1975 and a CUNY fellow in 1971-72.

For more information on Quest, visit

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(Posted: Apr 02, 2008)