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The Spectacle of U.S. Senate Campaigns

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Overview

This book offers a bold, comprehensive look at how campaigns actually work, from the framing of issues to media coverage to voters' decisions. In so doing, it challenges the common wisdom that campaigns are a noisy, symbolic aspect of electoral politics, in which the outcomes are determined mainly by economic variables or presidential popularity. Campaigns, the authors argue, do matter in the political process. Examining contested U.S. Senate races between 1988 and 1992, Kim Kahn and Patrick Kenney explore the details of the candidates' strategies and messages, the content, tone, and bias of the media coverage, and the attitudes and behaviors of potential voters. Kahn and Kenney discover that when the competition between candidates is strong, political issues become clearly defined, and the voting population responds.

Through a mix of survey data, content analysis, and interviews, the authors demonstrate how competition influences serious political debates in elections. Candidates take stands and compare themselves to their opponents. The news media offer more coverage of the races, presenting evaluations of the candidates' positions, critiques of their political careers, and analyses of their campaign ads. In response, the voters pay closer attention to the rhetoric of the candidates as they learn more about central campaign themes, often adjusting their own voting criteria. The book concentrates on Senate races because of the variance in campaign strategy and spending, media coverage, and voter reactions, but many of the findings apply to elections at all levels.

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Editorial Reviews

Political Science Quarterly - Barbara Sinclair
The richness of the study's findings combined with its rigor of research design and analysis makes it of equal interest to students of voting behavior and elections and students of Congress. The book is clearly written and the results of statistical analysis are presented in an accessible fashion. It is a major contribution. . . .
From the Publisher
"A welcome addition to a short list of books probing the dynamics of congressional elections."Choice

"The richness of the study's findings combined with its rigor of research design and analysis makes it of equal interest to students of voting behavior and elections and students of Congress. The book is clearly written and the results of statistical analysis are presented in an accessible fashion. It is a major contribution. . . ."—Barbara Sinclair, Political Science Quarterly

Choice
A welcome addition to a short list of books probing the dynamics of congressional elections.
Political Science Quarterly
The richness of the study's findings combined with its rigor of research design and analysis makes it of equal interest to students of voting behavior and elections and students of Congress. The book is clearly written and the results of statistical analysis are presented in an accessible fashion. It is a major contribution. . . .
— Barbara Sinclair
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691005058
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1999
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix
List of Tables xi
Acknowledgments xiii
PART ONE: UNDERSTANDING AND MEASURING CAMPAIGNS 1
One The Nature of Political Campaigns 3
Two Measuring the Content and Consequences of Political Campaigns 30
PART TWO: THE CAMPAIGN STRATEGIES OF CANDIDATES 41
Three In Order to Win: An Examination of Campaign Strategies 43
Four Attack Politics: Understanding the Determinants of Negative Campaigning 74
PART THREE: THE NEWS MEDIA'S COVERAGE OF CAMPAIGNS 99
Five Deciding What Is News: The Media's Coverage of Senate Campaigns 101
Six The Struggle for Control over the News Media's Agenda: How Candidates Influence the Content and Tone of News Coverage 133
PART FOUR: CITIZENS' REACTIONS TO CAMPAIGNS 161
Seven The Dynamics of Competition: The Impact of the Candidates and the News Media 163
Eight Citizens' Knowledge about U.S. Senate Campaigns 174
Nine How Voters Make Decisions in U.S. Senate Campaigns 206
PART FIVE: CONCLUSIONS 233
Ten Conclusions and Implications 235
Appendixes 245
A. Interview Schedule for Successful Incumbents 247
B. Political Advertising Code Sheet 251
C. Sample of Newspapers 255
D. Newspaper Content Analysis Code Sheet 257
References 263
Index 275

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