Friday, May 07, 2010

An intriguing book

I'm writing a review in an academic journal to a book I finished reading earlier this week. If you are intrigued by the political process -- and especially how political parties and individual politicians attempt to woo voters -- than I encourage you to get your hands on "The Persuadable Voter".

The authors examine how America’s two leading political parties have used wedge issues (i.e. abortion and stem-cell research, among others) to pull wavering voters into their camps. A “wedge issue” is “any policy concern that is used to divide the opposition’s winning coalition” (pg. 36).

They suggest emphasizing wedge issues has worked because some of the most persuadable voters are those who care deeply about a particular issue that their party is opposed to, and that improvements in technology have allowed for “microtargeting” of voters. They suggest “partisan defectors” were a significant enough bloc “to make the difference between the winner and loser in ten of the last fourteen presidential elections” (pg. 8).

My principal criticism of this book is its failure to incorporate the important role the media play in the electoral process. Recognizing the partisan nature of cable television (especially MSNBC and FOX), the authors would have been wise to examine how these networks play up partisanship and therefore could influence persuadable voters.

Granted, no book can cover everything associated with a political campaign. However, despite ignoring the important role media play in the presidential election process, the authors, in their conclusion, nevertheless challenge the media to more completely “monitor the exchange of information between citizens and their representatives” (pg. 200). They add: “The media often obsess over candidates’ spending on television commercials…but our analysis makes clear that these communication venues provide only a limited perspective of the candidates’ campaign agendas” (pg. 200).

I urge you to read the book and draw your own conclusions.

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