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The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns

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The Reasoning Voter is an insider's look at campaigns, candidates, media, and voters that convincingly argues that voters make informed logical choices. Samuel L. Popkin analyzes three primary campaigns—Carter in 1976; Bush and Reagan in 1980; and Hart, Mondale, and Jackson in 1984—to arrive at a new model of the way voters sort through commercials and sound bites to choos The Reasoning Voter is an insider's look at campaigns, candidates, media, and voters that convincingly argues that voters make informed logical choices. Samuel L. Popkin analyzes three primary campaigns—Carter in 1976; Bush and Reagan in 1980; and Hart, Mondale, and Jackson in 1984—to arrive at a new model of the way voters sort through commercials and sound bites to choose a candidate. Drawing on insights from economics and cognitive psychology, he convincingly demonstrates that, as trivial as campaigns often appear, they provide voters with a surprising amount of information on a candidate's views and skills. For all their shortcomings, campaigns do matter. "If you're preparing to run a presidential campaign, and only have time to read one book, make sure to read Sam Popkin's The Reasoning Voter. If you have time to read two books, read The Reasoning Voter twice."—James Carville, Senior Stategist, Clinton/Gore '92 "A fresh and subtle analysis of voter behavior."—Thomas Byrne Edsall, New York Review of Books "Professor Popkin has brought V.O. Key's contention that voters are rational into the media age. This book is a useful rebuttal to the cynical view that politics is a wholly contrived business, in which unscrupulous operatives manipulate the emotions of distrustful but gullible citizens. The reality, he shows, is both more complex and more hopeful than that."—David S. Broder, The Washington Post


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The Reasoning Voter is an insider's look at campaigns, candidates, media, and voters that convincingly argues that voters make informed logical choices. Samuel L. Popkin analyzes three primary campaigns—Carter in 1976; Bush and Reagan in 1980; and Hart, Mondale, and Jackson in 1984—to arrive at a new model of the way voters sort through commercials and sound bites to choos The Reasoning Voter is an insider's look at campaigns, candidates, media, and voters that convincingly argues that voters make informed logical choices. Samuel L. Popkin analyzes three primary campaigns—Carter in 1976; Bush and Reagan in 1980; and Hart, Mondale, and Jackson in 1984—to arrive at a new model of the way voters sort through commercials and sound bites to choose a candidate. Drawing on insights from economics and cognitive psychology, he convincingly demonstrates that, as trivial as campaigns often appear, they provide voters with a surprising amount of information on a candidate's views and skills. For all their shortcomings, campaigns do matter. "If you're preparing to run a presidential campaign, and only have time to read one book, make sure to read Sam Popkin's The Reasoning Voter. If you have time to read two books, read The Reasoning Voter twice."—James Carville, Senior Stategist, Clinton/Gore '92 "A fresh and subtle analysis of voter behavior."—Thomas Byrne Edsall, New York Review of Books "Professor Popkin has brought V.O. Key's contention that voters are rational into the media age. This book is a useful rebuttal to the cynical view that politics is a wholly contrived business, in which unscrupulous operatives manipulate the emotions of distrustful but gullible citizens. The reality, he shows, is both more complex and more hopeful than that."—David S. Broder, The Washington Post

30 review for The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    What an insightful and readable account of how presidential campaigns try to communicate with voters. Popkin is great at sensing which messages campaigns wish to send and which ones are actually being articulated. On the other side of the coin, he is great at articulating how voters actually process campaign information and use it to inform their decision-making processes. The Reasoning Voter covers three presidential elections: 1976, 1980, and 1984, and examines both primaries and the general el What an insightful and readable account of how presidential campaigns try to communicate with voters. Popkin is great at sensing which messages campaigns wish to send and which ones are actually being articulated. On the other side of the coin, he is great at articulating how voters actually process campaign information and use it to inform their decision-making processes. The Reasoning Voter covers three presidential elections: 1976, 1980, and 1984, and examines both primaries and the general elections. Necessarily, it is gotten somewhat out of date, but there is still plenty of engaging material, and Popkin writes with an ease that is uncommon among political scientists. One of the key messages of the book remains vital today: in the end, voters can't be expected to read every policy paper or be up to date on every important political issue. They are busy people with jobs and kids and have only so much time in the day, like all of us. Therefore, they employ "shortcuts" based on what they see transmitted about candidates in the media, and combine that with what they "know" from the past with more recent information into some kind of internal algorithm to decide which candidate will gain their support. Candidates that can express an image that makes voters believe that the candidate "has values similar to my own, or is otherwise like me in some fundamental way, or at least understands me" are likely to attract support. In a sense, this is just another way to expressing the old "who would you rather have a beer with" concept. But as frustrating as it may be to policy wonks, this question seems like it will remain relevant for a long time to come.

  2. 5 out of 5

    elvedril

    A really good read. Prof. Popkin does an excellent job of analyzing the way political campaigns work and how voters use them to make their decisions. He also addresses a lot of complaints about modern political campaigns and suggests what reforms might help and which are based on incorrect understandings of the political process. It does feel somewhat dated, especially when it comes to the examples, but that's pretty inevitable since the book came out in 1994. Still, despite the age I think it i A really good read. Prof. Popkin does an excellent job of analyzing the way political campaigns work and how voters use them to make their decisions. He also addresses a lot of complaints about modern political campaigns and suggests what reforms might help and which are based on incorrect understandings of the political process. It does feel somewhat dated, especially when it comes to the examples, but that's pretty inevitable since the book came out in 1994. Still, despite the age I think it is a worthwhile read for thinking about elections.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    It was very interesting and really opened my eyes to the fact that most voters do not have time to look into each candidate but instead use shortcuts and quick pieces of information to make their decision.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kristie

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sam Bakker

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cheria

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Rodriguez

  10. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hiroki

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christine (Queen of Books)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brent

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adam Bakr

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eric Thrond

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

  17. 5 out of 5

    Zach

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Theiss

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mathew Thomas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mattbriggs

  23. 4 out of 5

    Luiz Rens

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Osborne

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pavlos

  26. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

  27. 5 out of 5

    Poliwalk

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gainsley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Daily

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