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674 Rhetoric & Public Affairs that issue advocacy became the major strategy for interest groups in the 1996 and 1998 elections, but then they tend to do very little with them. Given that it is these single issue advocate groups that have the potential for completely transforming American political campaigns, it would be helpful to have more thorough consideration , particularly as they affected the 1996 and 1998 elections. One of the most useful sections of the book for students of political campaign communication, lobbyists, and concerned citizens alike, is the authors' evaluation of the ways in which interest groups are involved in elections. As the authors argue, at one level, interest groups can be viewed as an asset to democracy in that they give a voice to individual Americans by articulating their concerns and bringing them into the electoral system, raising money to finance campaigns, recruiting candidates and running candidate training programs. One the other hand, interest group participation can frequently be damaging to the electoral process when they endorse and finance the campaign of an incumbent, influence the content of legislation, create misleading and oversimplified messages, distort candidates' records and positions on issues, and finance negative advertising. On balance, Rozell and Wilcox believe that the positives outweigh the negatives and although reform is needed, interest groups remain important to our democratic system. Some of us may disagree with their evaluation, but all will agree on the importance of the book to political communication. Judith S. Trent University of Cincinnati Engaging the Public: How Government and the Media Can Reinvigorate American Democracy. Edited by Thomas J. Johnson, Carol E. Hays, and Scott P. Hays. Foreword by Paul Simon. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998; pp. xiii + 281. $65.00 cloth; $22.95 paper. Engaging the Public is a very useful book that addresses a topic of critical importance : the decline of civic engagement in American politics, and what can be done about it. The editors, who are scholars of political communication, electoral politics , and public opinion, provide a helpful overview of the seriousness of public (dis)engagement (1-7). They present a series of original essays/research notes grouped into sections on the nature and extent of citizens' alienation, on the media as both a problem and a forum for reform, and on the effects of existing technological and state-based initiatives designed to ameliorate the current condition of politics in the United States (Chs. 1-16). The editors introduce the sections with short essays that give an overview of the material (11-16, 67-74, 137-42), and the authors of each chapter also provide their own (brief) sets of recommendations. Some of the research confirms what we already know: that in comparison with voters, non-voters are disproportionately young, have less education, earn lower Book Reviews 675 incomes, are more likely to be minorities, and are less likely to follow politics (Ch. 1). Other findings are provocatively counterintuitive. Most striking was a set of findings from research on the "no shows" of American politics: "18 percent of all likely nonvoters did have college degrees"; "43 percent had household incomes of $30,000 or more, including ... 6 percent who reported making $75,000 or more"; "one-quarter of all likely nonvoters were forty-five years old or older"; and "More than one-quarter of the likely nonvoters... said they read a newspaper six or seven days a week" (19,23). Counterintuitive, too, was the finding that negative ads appear to exert quite limited effects on voters, contrary to what many believe (Ch. 7). Also surprising was the finding that the more people listen to talk radio, the more they know about politics —independent of demographics, exposure to other media, or other factors (Ch. 8). Neither has motor-voter registration (per the National Voter Registration Act of 1993) led to higher voter turnout, contrary to expectations (Chs. 10, 11). Yet vote registration by mail does promote higher turnout for those less likely to vote and vote fraud was nor a problem with mail-in registration in Oregon, contrary to what some suspected (Ch. 13). Early voting, too, "dramatically increases" voter turnout among the less educated, the poor, and minorities, even...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5238
Print ISSN
1094-8392
Pages
pp. 674-677
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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