Everything You Think You Know about Politics and Why You're Wrong

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Author
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Author Basic Books $15 (256p) ISBN 978-0-465-03627-1
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-465-03633-2
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Although the title overstates her case, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and savvy political commentator Jamieson (Dirty Politics, etc.) challenges much of the assumed wisdom about presidential elections. It is, she writes, a ""widely held belief that politics in the United States is broken: [that] soundbites are worthless..., politicians don't keep their promises [and] campaigns are increasingly negative."" This is not trueDat least, not according to her data. Based on the results of the Annenberg Campaign Mapping ProjectDa collaborative research project that examined the character of every presidential campaign since 1952 and took 10 years to completeDthe book is at once scholarly and practical. Sprinkled with explanatory sidebar tidbits, cartoons and graphs, it conveys a tremendous wealth of information in an easily digestible format. Narrowly focused chapters deal with each faulty assumption one by one (several chapters are barely two or three pages); other chaptersDincluding the one about how local TV crime coverage feeds irrational racial fearsDare remarkably in-depth and subtle. The author argues that, contrary to what the pundits say, candidate debates are informative and useful; that most presidents try to keep their campaign promises; and that campaigning hasn't gotten more attack-based over time. Although it offers no discussion of the possibility that presidential campaigning might be broken in ways other than those examined here, Jamieson's thorough and persuasive book promises to add perspective to our sense of presidential campaigning when we need it most. This is essential reading for political junkies. (July)
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