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Campaign Reform

Insights and Evidence

Larry M. Bartels and Lynn Vavreck, Editors

Publication Year: 2000

What is wrong with American political campaigns? How could the campaign process be improved? This volume brings the expertise of leading political scientists to the public debate about campaign reform. These scholars probe the reality behind the conventional wisdom that nasty, vacuous campaigns dominated by big money and cynical media coverage are perverting our political process and alienating our citizenry. Some of their conclusions will be startling to campaigners and critics alike. For example, "attack" advertisements prove to be no more effective than self-promotional advertisements, but are more substantive. Indeed, candidates in their advertisements and speeches focus more on policy and less on strategy and process than any major news outlet, including the New York Times. The volume suggests that, as a result, prospective voters in 1996 knew more about the candidates' issue positions than in any presidential election in decades, yet turnout and public faith in the electoral process continued to decline. For aspiring reformers, Bartels and his colleagues provide a bracing reality check. For students and scholars of electoral politics, political communication, and voting behavior, they provide an authoritative summary and interpretation of what we know about the nature and impact of political campaigns. The insights and evidence contained in this volume should be of interest to anyone concerned about the present state and future prospects of American electoral process. Larry M. Bartels is Professor of Politics and Public Affairs and Stuart Professor of Communications and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. Lynn Vavreck is Assistant Professor of Government, Dartmouth College. Other contributors are Bruce Buchanan, Tami Buhr, Ann Crigler, John G. Geer, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Marion Just, Daron R. Shaw, and John Zaller.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

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pp. vii-x

The Task Force on Campaign Reform was commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts to contribute the scholarly expertise of leading political scientists to the public debate on campaign reform. The task force gathered periodically over a fifteen-month period in Chicago, Washington, and...

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1. Campaign Quality: Standards for Evaluation, Benchmarks for Reform

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pp. 1-61

Political campaigns are at the center of American democracy and of the ordinary citizen's connection with the democratic process. They should be our primary occasions for political education, collective choice, elite accountability, and democratic legitimation. Instead, ...

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2. Assessing Attack Advertising: A Silver Lining

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pp. 62-78

When Americans are asked about the health of our electoral process, the response is quite discouraging. Citizens lack faith in how campaigns work and in the men and women who run in them. For example, more than three-quarters of the electorate in January 1996 thought that candidates...

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3. How Does It All "Turnout"? Exposure to Attack Advertising, Campaign Interest, and Participation in American Presidential Elections

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pp. 79-105

The keystone of American democracy is the political campaign-a critical link through which potential governors communicate with citizens about problems, solutions, and basic ideologies. Candidates sell their ideas, their histories, and even themselves while voters listen, evaluate, and eventually...

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4. Watching the Adwatches

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pp. 106-121

Adwatches have the potential to enhance the quality of campaigns by creating disincentives for candidates to make dubious claims and by inviting a backlash from the knowledgeable citizenry if the ads overstep the line. Adwatches can have undesirable consequences in both areas as well. When...

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5. Shifting the Balance: Journalist versus Candidate Communication in the 1996 Presidential Campaign

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pp. 122-144

Voters need enough information about the candidates, the parties, their records, and their proposals to make instrumental choices and carry out their democratic business. Several researchers using different methods have argued that the political information system is the key to effective...

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6. Is Reform Really Necessary? A Closer Look at News Media Coverage, Candidate Events, and Presidential Votes

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pp. 145-172

Despite the centrality of presidential election campaigns to the American political process, they are not held in high esteem by political scientists. There are two major reasons for this perception. First, presidential campaigns are thought to be too negative...

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7. Regime Support and Campaign Reform

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pp. 173-200

Political discontent with government and its leaders, institutions, and decision- making processes is arguably a latent threat to what David Easton (1975,444) calls "diffuse regime support," which he defines as "a reservoir...

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8. Campaign Reform: Insights and Evidence Report of the Task Force on Campaign Reform

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pp. 201-248

This report presents the views of fourteen scholars in the fields of electoral politics, voting behavior, and political communication about what is wrong with the American campaign process and how to fix it. We write both as scholars and as citizens. As citizens, we share many of the same...

Task Force Members

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pp. 249-251


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pp. 253-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027309
E-ISBN-10: 0472027301
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472067312
Print-ISBN-10: 0472067311

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 19 drawings, 19 tables
Publication Year: 2000