Carnegie Mellon University
September 07, 2022

Remembering Howard Rosenthal, Professor and Political Scientist

Howard Rosenthal, a political scientist well known for his work measuring and analyzing political polarization, passed away at his home in San Francisco, CA in July at the age of 83. He had been at NYU since 2005, a professor at Princeton from 1993 to 2005, and at Carnegie Mellon from 1971 to 1993.

Rosenthal's research proved the extent to which Congress is politically polarized and that voters’ decisions can be predicted based on their previous positions on race and government intervention on the economy. Predicting votes by Members of Congress in this way was initially considered controversial. However, these predictions went a long way toward establishing his model’s credibility.

“He and his coauthors at Carnegie Mellon made pathbreaking contributions,” said Dennis Epple, Thomas Lord University Professor of Economics at the Tepper School. “With Thomas Romer, he developed an innovative framework and compelling empirical evidence demonstrating the importance of agenda setting. With Thomas Palfrey, he undertook research providing fundamental new insights into the factors that impact voter participation in elections.

"With Alberto Alesina and John Londregan, he laid out the striking connections between partisan politics and the macroeconomy. He and Keith Poole analyzed data for all roll call votes from the Continental Congress forward in their remarkable book 'Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting.' Howard, Keith Poole, and (then doctoral student) Nolan McCarty undertook their prescient work on income inequality and polarization of American politics.”

Rosenthal was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution. “These research contributions and fellowships testify to the breadth and depth of Howard’s intellectual reach," said Epple. "He also left an indelible mark on Carnegie Mellon and GSIA/Tepper. All of us who had the good fortune to have Howard as a colleague benefitted from his friendship, encouragement, and extraordinary talent.”

For more information about Rosenthal’s life, visit The New York Times for a recent article covering his life.