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Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns Paperback – February 5, 2012

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Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns + The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns + The Political Campaign Desk Reference: A Guide for Campaign Managers, Professionals and Candidates Running for Office
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Editorial Reviews


"This book is a revelation. It forces us to think hard about campaigns and in a new way. ... What is more, it could not have had this effect but for its ethnographic method." Professor Richard Johnston - Political Communication

"Through a meticulously detailed, and at times quite humorous, ethnographic narrative, Nielsen reveals the emotional labor and the technological, political, and financial assemblages that pool together for a few months to fight in the "ground wars" ... Nielsen's book is essential reading." Mary F. E. Ebeling - Contemporary Sociology

"A gripping read. Well researched, insightful and full of wonderful snapshots drawn from observations made during the research. If you really want to understand campaigning, this is the book to read." Darren G. Lilliker - Politics, PR & Marketing

"Ground Wars by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is an essential new bible for political campaigns locked in the everlasting battle that has become modern American politics." Benjamin Kallos - FireDogLake

Winner of the 2014 Doris Graber Award, Political Communication Section of the American Political Science Association

"Although running for office by knocking on doors may seem quant and old-fashioned, this book asserts the continued importance of personal campaign contact despite the existence of mass media and social networking. Based on extensive participant observation in two competitive Democratic House races, Nielsen not only provides very extensive personal stories from the campaign trail but also discovers interesting patters and attempts to link them to social science theory."--Choice

"The beauty of Nielsen's book is that he takes you inside the ground wars, into the mundane world of the political junkies and hangers-on who want to be close to the main action, even if the action involves a county election."--William D. Crano, PsycCritiques

From the Back Cover

"If the medium is the message, Nielsen shows that a key medium in campaigns is person-to-person communication. His sharp analysis and careful ethnographic storytelling reveal both the high level strategic role and the human experience of personalized political communication in contemporary elections."--W. Lance Bennett, University of Washington

"Having embedded himself with the grunts in the political trenches of two ordinary congressional elections, Nielsen demonstrates how elections involve the selling of democracy to an often reluctant or uninterested public. Ground Wars is a sterling example of political ethnography."--Herbert J. Gans, former president of the American Sociological Association

"Nielsen provides a trenchant and thought-provoking account of what campaigns look like at ground level. His ethnography offers a rare glimpse into what canvassing and phone banking mean to those who try to reach vast numbers of voters in the run-up to Election Day. This book is a welcome companion to more abstract, quantitative studies of campaigns and elections."--Donald P. Green, Columbia University

"Nielsen presents a very compelling analysis of an often-neglected aspect of modern electoral campaigns. He challenges the idea that political communication must be tightly controlled and scripted, correctly arguing that personalized, labor-intensive communication prone to individual inflection and enthusiasm represents American democracy in action. Ground Wars is an important and timely book."--Dennis W. Johnson, author of No Place for Amateurs: How Political Consultants Are Reshaping American Democracy

"This is an excellent book that offers unique analysis and insights into an emerging key dimension of electoral campaigning: personalized political communication--that is, communication to voters in person either at the door or on the phone. This book contributes to political science in novel and decisive ways. Ground Wars is a pleasure to read."--Florence Faucher-King, Sciences Po, Paris


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Product Details

More About the Author

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

He talks incessantly given half the chance and is always willing to play the devil's advocate, but bear with him, he means no harm--he just finds it all so interesting.

His academic work focuses on political communication, digital politics, and comparative media studies, and has been covered by various news media including the BBC, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Guardian and many other outlets.

He tweets at @rasmus_kleis, blogs (occassionally) at, and is a frequent speaker at both academic and industry conferences.

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