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The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents Hardcover – January 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Swing Vote:

The Swing Vote has useful observations…. [Linda Killian] traveled around the country interviewing hundreds of voters who are disaffected. There are lessons to be learned from her reporting.”
--The New York Review of Books

“A useful look at the current makeup and mood of America’s voters.”
--Kirkus Reviews on The Swing Vote

“Linda Killian helps us understand who the swing voters who decide elections are and what they are looking for. Killian's analysis provides a valuable guide on harnessing their collective energy into a new way of thinking about politics.”
---Eleanor Clift, contributor Newsweek and Daily Beast

“Linda Killian has written a lively and insightful book about the current state of American politics, melding the best skills of a journalist, a social scientist, a pollster, and a passionate citizen.…With Congress’s disapproval rating at an all-time high, and a ‘plague on both houses’ sentiment exploding in the country, it is hard to imagine a more timely book.”
---Norman J. Ornstein, author of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

“Linda Killian does a great job of not only examining the importance and historic role of those Independent and moderate swing voters who live between the partisan and ideological forty-yard lines, but she examines their mind-sets as well. What makes swing voters tick, what swings them and why?  An understanding of swing voters leads to an understanding of the volatility and the turbulence that drove the 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections and will likely drive 2012 as well.”
---Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report and political analyst for NBC News

Praise for The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution?

“Linda Killian’s new and terrific book…is a strong, well-researched, and well-credited document on the failure of the seventy-three Republican freshmen in the class of ’94.”
---USA Today

“Killian’s prodigious research is evident on every information-packed page.”
---The Washington Post

About the Author

Linda Killian is a journalist and senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has been a columnist for Politico, U.S. News & World, and Politics Daily. She has also written for The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Weekly Standard, among other national publications. Her previous book was The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution? She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312581777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312581770
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,931,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

LINDA KILLIAN - - @lindajkillian

Linda Killian is a Washington author, journalist, political analyst and activist.

She is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire and writes for The Daily Beast, The Atlantic and Politico. She has been a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and appears regularly as a political analyst on national television. Her latest book is "THE SWING VOTE: The Untapped Power of Independents" published by St. Martin's Press.

"THE SWING VOTE" examines the polarization and dysfunction of our political system from the perspective of independent voters. It focuses on four swing states - Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia - and presents four demographic groups that illustrate who the swing voters are - NPR Republicans, America First Democrats, The Facebook Generation and Starbucks Moms and Dads. Killian describes the intense disappointment and frustration these voters have with the political system and the two parties and examines the heightened polarization of Democratic and Republican elected officials and their inability to deal with our nation's most important problems. In "THE SWING VOTE" she offers solutions for fixing our broken political system and ways for Independent voters to make their voices heard.

Her previous book was "The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution?" praised by The New York Review of Books and other reviewers as a colorful, well-written and insightful analysis of what happened to the congressional Republicans of 1994. "The Freshmen" reveals the maneuvering and intrigues, the successes and failures of the historic 104th Republican Congress.

She has also written for national news organizations including The Washington Post, Politics Daily and U.S. News & World and many other magazines and websites. Her television appearances on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and C-SPAN include Now with Alex Wagner, The Cycle, The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and Hardball with Chris Matthews. She has also appeared multiple times on The NewsHour on PBS. Her national radio appearances include WNYC's The Takeaway, Sirius Radio, WHYY in Philadelphia and National Public Radio public affairs shows in Miami, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Columbus, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and Boston.

Killian is a frequent lecturer on politics and public affairs around the country and her work has also appeared in "The Los Angeles Times", "The New Republic", "The Weekly Standard", "The American Spectator", "The Christian Science Monitor", "The Boston Globe", "Redbook", "Washingtonian" and "People" magazines.

She is the creator and former director of the Boston University Washington Journalism Center and a former Boston University professor of journalism.

She was the senior editor of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" where she was responsible for the editorial content of NPR's national evening news program and is a former reporter at Forbes magazine in New York.

She has a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Sharp on May 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Killian has conducted an impressive number of interviews and focus groups in writing this book, but the results of those discussions are identical and bland: our politics is polarizing and therefore not good. Killian has done what she set out to do, convince the reader that there is a large group of voters who feel underrepresented by the two dominant political parties, but the book unfortunately does not do much else. There is no discussion of how the political parties capture these voters and no discussion of how the parties might adjust in the future to seize "the untapped power of independents." In sum, despite being well researched and well written, the book feels incomplete and devoid of nuance. The concluding chapter presents a few recommendations on how voters can change the direction of American politics, but the proposed solutions (e.g. open primaries, less gerrymandering, joining independent political groups) have been repeated elsewhere numerous times. The brief rants against the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman may be a bit tiresome for some readers.

Despite the books shortcomings, it is still a good read. The text is accessible to her target audience of independent voters. The new demographics she discusses, for example NPR Republicans and Starbucks Moms, are helpful in understanding the overlooked independent voters. She devotes a chapter each to swing voters in New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio; and having lived in two of those states, I can confirm that her analysis is largely accurate and convincing. It also supports her central point that we live in a country of diverse viewpoints, and increasingly few of those viewpoints are being heard by elected representatives.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Dilger on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Swing Vote" has aided me in understanding American political history since the mid-90's. Full of detail on the upper echelons of our debatably democratic society, this book tries to show a middle way between our polarized political process. Despite the author's initial contentions on what an independent believes, there is much information the casual reader would find useful. The analysis is right on target about the dysfunction that has hit our legislative branches, and the resultant deadlock in our government. Several states are featured in their problems with the democratic process, using quotes by important personages distributed throughout the book. A good coverage of today's politics for an open mind-- the only 'out' group by the author is the extreme right-- while she attempts to synthesize a solution to America's stall. As a long-term independent and perceived "moderate" my entire perspective isn't represented here, but it's an attempt to profile the growing electorate that thinks our democratic system has failed. Informative. [Add. note: I was drawn to read the book by the author's appearance on the 'Wilson Forum'. She seemed knowledgable on the subject of D.C politics and politicians in general. Though I disagree with her opinions gleaned from focus groups as a representive sample, her definition of the problem is solid.]
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Charney on April 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you follow any contact sport--football, basketball, or ice hockey, for example--you'll know that the key to success is holding the center. On offense, the center opens up scoring opportunities; on defense it prevents the other side from reaching its goals. Even a decidedly non-contact sport like chess emphasizes controlling the middle, the center, the place from which strategy develops and victory comes.

Politics seems like a full-on contact sport these days, and, as Linda Killian points out in her excellent new book, The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents, the center is where all the action is. Yet somehow the center--the 40% of the body politic that claims to be moderate and/or independent--has been manipulated out of its political power, it's political voice. Through carefully crafted two-party machinations that have compounded over many years, many centrists are relegated to the sidelines when it comes to the important process of selecting party candidates or--as importantly--mounting opposition to the two-party status quo.

"If a minority group were getting shut out of full participation in the political process," Killian writes, "there would be a huge outcry. But Independent voters are far from a minority group. There are more of them that either Democrats or Republicans."

Beginning with a taxonomy of sorts, Killian takes us through the personal journeys of several moderates and independents in four parts of the country: New Hampshire, where live the NPR Republicans; Colorado, home of the Facebook Generation; Virginia, residence for the Starbucks Moms and Dads; and Ohio, home of the America First Democrats.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L Harrison on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Killian provides a solid look into the minds of swing voters, interviewing first hand a diverse cast of voters from varied backgrounds across the United States. But her work is lacking in any sort of strong foundation that connects the individual stories of these voters to broader political trends. She interviews working-class whites in the Midwest or affluent suburbanites in Northern Virginia, two areas and groups known for their political volatility, but she could have gone the extra mile to link the views voiced by her interviewees to public opinion polls and other empirical sources of data to lock down the relationship she's drawing between the interviews and our broader public debate. She also fails to sufficiently address the strong opinions of political scientists drawing on survey data that there are few, if any, true independents and most voters really do fall back onto one political party in most situations. The true swing vote is probably smaller than Killian argues, and without a look at the real data behind voting behavior she's not able to make a strong case that the voters she's interviewing really have anything to do with the outcome of elections.
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