Ada Finifter

Ada FinifterAda W. Finifter passed away on October 29, 2011 in Lansing, Michigan after a two-year battle with multiple myeloma. Ada was my colleague from September 1967, when we joined the Political Science Department at Michigan State University as Assistant Professors, until her retirement in July 2008.
After she retired, she moved to New York City to take advantage of the cultural attractions of Manhattan, especially the theater. But she kept her condo on Lake Lansing, a popular recreational site
near East Lansing, and returned to the Lansing area every summer. She moved to her condo in the summer of 2011, but became too ill to return to New York.

Ada was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 6, 1938, and graduated from Brooklyn College Cum Laude with Honors in Political Science in 1959. She attended the University of Michigan, earning her MA in political science in 1962. She then served in the Peace Corps as a Professor in the School of Social Science, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Caracas, Venezuela in 1963–64. On returning to the United States, she began the PhD program in political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, earning her PhD in 1967 under the guidance of future American Political Science Association president Austin Ranney. Ada was promoted to Associate Professor at Michigan State University in 1972 and to Professor in 1981.

Ada edited several influential books, the most important of which were Political Science: The State of the Discipline (1983) and Political Science: The State of the Discipline II (1993). In Alienation and the
Social System (1972), she analyzes controversies about the meaning of alienation and also presents some of the best Marxist and non-Marxist writings about this concept. Even though she lacked any special training in computer science, Ada wrote one of the first texts about using personal computers, Using the IBM Personal Computer: EasyWriter (1984).

Ada published four articles in the American Political Science Review: ”Dimensions of Political Alienation” (June 1970); “The Friendship Group as a Protective Environment for Political Deviants” (June
1974); “Redefining the Political System of the USSR: Mass Support for Political Change” (with Ellen Mickiewicz) (December 1992); and “Attitudes toward Individual Responsibility and Political Reform
in the Former Soviet Union” (March 1996).

Her article on political alienation, based on a factor analysis of The Civic Culture survey conducted by Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba in the United States in March 1960, applied empirical data to the study of alienation—at a time when factor analysis was conducted by hand! Her article on “the friendship” group analyzed autoworkers in the Detroit area in early 1961shortly after the Kennedy-Nixon
election. It is a pioneering study using contextual analysis.

Ada’s study with Ellen was the first collaborative US-Soviet national survey of the Soviet Union, and they worked closely with the great Soviet sociologist Boris Grushin (1929–2007) of Moscow. They discuss how the attitudinal patterns they found in late 1989 may have contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union and how they may contribute to the problems to be confronted by its successor states. Ada’s final APSR article responds to criticisms of her article with Ellen, presents additional findings from their study, and provides analyses of the 1990–91 World Values Survey. She discusses several methodological reasons that surveys may yield different results, but most importantly argues that political scientists must be sensitive to the political context in which their surveys are conducted.

Ada published in other major political science journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, and the Public Opinion Quarterly. Her survey of American emigrants in
Australia, conducted with her husband Bernard M. Finifter in 1978 (they divorced in 1984), led to articles on the ongoing impact of party identification among Americans who emigrate and the psychological
impact of renouncing American citizenship.

Ada was professionally active in the APSA and the Midwest Political Science Association. She was the program director for the 1982 APSA Meeting and in 1986–87 was president of the MPSA.
Ada served on many important APSA committees. In his The Politics of Academic Culture: Foibles, Fables, and Facts (1998), past APSA President Heinz Eulau writes that Ada told him that his appointment
of her to the Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession launched her professional career in the APSA. And, Eulau writes (114), “She remains a true role model for young political
scientists of either gender.” And two other APSA past presidents, M. Kent Jennings and Charles O. Jones (who appointed her to be editor of the APSR) described her to me with identical words, “She
was a real trooper.”

But Ada was more than a trooper for she was also a leader. When she entered the profession there were few female political scientists and only a handful of prominent women. Between 1978 and
2008 the discipline had been transformed, and Ada played a major role transforming it both by being a role model and by personally encouraging young women.

Ada edited the Review between March 1996 and December 2001. Many members of her Editorial Board can attest to her conscientiousness but I was the only Board member who was also her colleague.
Therefore, I personally can attest to how thoughtful she was in making editorial decisions. She often would come to my office and ask me to read a manuscript and the reviews and to give
her my assessment. Her questions were pointed and reflected her deep understanding of the issues, even when the subject matter was unrelated to her areas of expertise.

Ada promoted the highest ethical standards. (She had chaired the APSA Committee on Professional Ethics, Rights, and Responsibilities.) She was extremely careful to avoid conflicts of interest. No
editor could have been more thoughtful, careful, and professional  in managing our flagship journal.

Even though Ada took great pride in the Review, she strongly supported launching a new journal that would publish articles that were accessible to a wider audience and that had contemporary political
relevance. She also favored establishing a journal that would relieve the Review from publishing book reviews. Ada supported this change even though she recognized that such a journal, which we now have
in Perspectives on Politics, might diminish interest in the Review. Ada was a demanding editor, which some authors viewed as a flaw. Authors were often asked to work and to rework their manuscripts. She insisted that authors meet the highest scientific principles and that they present their quantitative work in a way that readers could interpret. But the work she demanded contributed greatly to the quality of the Review during the six years of her stewardship. Finally, as past APSA president Theda Skocpol pointed out to me, “Ada was APSREditor at a tricky moment of transition to a more inclusive journal. She took a lot of arrows, but did a conscientious job of working to include a wider variety of types of scholarship in the journal. She paved the way for a better journal and a better APSA.”
Ron Rogowski, the current lead editor of the Review, agrees that Ada “did her utmost to make the Review . . . a more inclusive journal.” Moreover, she “consulted with many of us about how best to do
that, when by the time of her editorship the Review’s identity as an unfriendly venue for qualitative work seemed firmly entrenched.” But, Ron acknowledges, neither she nor her successors were able to
change that perception. All the same, Ron writes, her efforts were “nothing short of heroic. I believed at the time, and continue to believe, that she virtually ‘wore herself out in harness’ as Editor,
and that whatever success any of us have had as her successors is largely a product of her valiant efforts.”

Ada and I studied public opinion and voting behavior. Over the years, I read the vast majority of her work, and she read most of mine. In several cases, she read an entire book manuscript, once
leading me to reorganize a book that had already been accepted for publication (and this before the days of word processors). She was a wonderful colleague, but more importantly, she was a friend
whom I will greatly miss. And many of her former colleagues have written to me expressing their sense of loss.

Her brother and sister-in-law, Leon Weintraub and Nancy Weintraub of Potomac, Maryland, two nephews, and one niece survive her. For contributions, Ada established the “Ada Weintraub Finifter Endowed Fund in Jewish Studies.” Donations may be sent to the Jewish Studies Program, College of Arts and Letters, 301 Linton Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.
—Paul R. Abramson,
Michigan State University
Note: I am grateful to Nathaniel Beck, Paul Brace, Jack Citrin, Robert
S. Erikson, Melinda Gann Hall, William G. Jacoby, Ellen Mickiewicz,
Ronald Rogowski, Joshua Sapotichne, Saundra K. Schneider, Vladimir
Shlapentokh, Brian D. Silver, Theda R. Skocpol, Paul M. Sniderman,
and Leon Weintraub for their suggestions.