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Everything You Think You Know About Politics...and Why You're Wrong Paperback – June 20, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465036279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465036271
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Here are a few facts Kathleen Hall Jamieson thinks you don't know about politics: most presidents try to keep their campaign promises, most candidate ads tell the truth, campaign rhetoric has not become more negative in recent years, reporters don't represent the content of candidate speeches very well, and attack ads don't depress voter turnout. There's more, but the point is clear: the conventional wisdom about politics is often wrong. Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania dean and frequent guest on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, is determined to set the record straight.

Everything You Think You Know About Politics... and Why You're Wrong is messy and disjointed, but in a thoroughly enjoyable way. It's essentially a collection of essays--more than two dozen of them--on narrow-focus topics such as whether local TV or local newspapers do a better job of covering politics, the value of candidate debates, and press bias. Jamieson sometimes shares authorship credits on chapters, and most essays are marked by her determination to confound expectations. Not every chapter will interest every reader, but political junkies will find plenty of material worth perusing on these pages. Sometimes Jamieson's claims are provocative: "The gender gap in political knowledge is real.... Men answer more questions about candidate positions correctly than do women." She also argues strenuously in favor of media soundbites--they really do communicate political information effectively, she believes. Readers who intend to keep pace with the twists and turns of the 2000 election season will do well to thumb through this book: it's written with them especially in mind. Everything You Think You Know About Politics... will boost knowledge about how politics works and why campaigns and the media behave as they do--as well as increase readers' pleasure in observing the whole process. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jussi Bjorling on August 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Hall Jamieson is very, very smart, and very good at challenging conventional wisdom. In this book, she demolishes most of the tried-and-thought-true assumptions about politics, usually taking a more optimistic tack. The thrust of her argument is first, that the American public is not becoming less politically capable (for the most part), and second, that the media pursues its own agenda and distorts the news more than we like to admit. She makes both of these points in a somewhat messy manner, because her topics are all over the place, but it's hard to disagree with her at the end.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John VINE VOICE on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
I just finished listening to the audible.com version of this fascinating book by Kathleen Hall Jamieson. The book is filled with interesting and, at times, surprising facts about politics and political campaigning. What I particularly liked about this book is that its claims are based on research and hard evidence. The author is not just spouting her opinions, but backs up her assertions with evidence. It is clear that a lot of work went into the preparation of this text.
The book is written in a lively, concise, and entertaining style and should appeal to all types of readers, even those that might not normally read a book on politics.
If I had a criticism it is that the title overstates what the book really contains. While this book did change some of my beliefs about politics, it did not make a wholesale change in my understanding of our political system. But, catchy titles sell books so I am not going to fault the author or publisher (too much) for wanting to make this book commercially successful. My only other negative comment is that this book focuses almost entirely on politics and campaigning as they related to the presidency. Information on congressional and local politics is sparse.
The audible.com version was read by the author is she does a very good job. She has a clear, upbeat tempo that makes it easy to listen to.
Whether you're a political junkie who can't get enough of CSPAN, or someone that would just like to learn more about our political system, I think that you will enjoy reading (or listening to) this wonderful book.
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41 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Daniel L. Wick on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Everything You Think You Know About Politics . . . And Why You're Wrong By Kathleen Hall Jamieson Basic Books
By Dan Wick
Do you believe that presidential candidates rarely fulfill their campaign promises? That attack ads have increased in recent years? Or that campaigns are mostly hype, rarely conveying useful information to the voter? If so, Kathleen Hall Jamieson would like you to know that you're wrong.
Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a frequent and dispassionate commentator on the Jim Lehrer News Hour, Jamieson certainly knows whereof she writes. By providing a wide range of empirical studies about what actually occurs in national political campaigns, she effectively dispels myth and misperception.
On Presidential promises, for example, that putative promiscuous promise breaker, Bill Clinton, fulfilled 69% of his campaign pledges, which compares favorably with Reagan's 63% or Nixon's 60%. On negative ads, Jamieson observes that in 1996, "the proportion of pure attack ads declined by nearly half from 1980, 1988, and 1992." Public grumbling about attack ads, she says, stems from media overreporting .
Indeed, argues Jamieson, with the decline of political parties, the influence of the media on elections has greatly increased. Media coverage during the early political primaries tends to winnow the race to a contest between two major contenders so, while "the media may not be successful in telling us for whom to vote, . . .they are stunningly successful in telling us whom we may choose between.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pied Tubist on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've long felt that the critics of negative advertising have over-simplified negative advertising by lumping perfectly fair criticisms of a candidate's record into the same class with ad hominem attacks.

At last we have some statistical analysis which differentiates and shows how to properly use negative advertising without suppressing voter turnout.

The author concludes low key ads that "contrast" one candidate's record and views against the other do not suppress voter turnout and may even increase interest in a campaign. Great stuff there that I intend to use in my brother's race.

Having given the author her due for the good information she presents, reading this book is tedious. After I managed to plow through the first 2 chapters I couldn't take it anymore and skipped to the summary.

The author also states some things as fact which I consider to be personal opinions, such as her critique of the Pat Robertson, Warren Rudman imbroglio. A regrettable flaw in an otherwise scholarly book.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By LEON L CZIKOWSKY on October 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This author deserves high praise as she bases her findings on original data. Many political books only present an author's opinions, which are useful in their own way. This book presents academic interpretation of survey findings.
This book explores how contrasting political information is useful in mobilizing support for candidates, yet false political information does tend to be recognized by voters for being incorrect and is rejected and leads to political backlashes against the candidate making the false statements. Further, the manner in which media reports campaigns is a major influence on how voters ultimately form their opinions.
This is an excellent book grounded in documented evidence. Readers interested in politics will find this one of the best books ever on politics and the media.
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