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The Timeline of Presidential Elections: How Campaigns Do (and Do Not) Matter (Chicago Studies in American Politics) Paperback – October 1, 2012

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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Studies in American Politics
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226922154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226922157
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Every political pundit should be required to read this book before covering the 2016 campaign."
(Ryan Lizza New Yorker, Ten Best Political Books of 2012 2012-12-12)

“This is an important, original book by accomplished political scientists at the top of their game. Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien have addressed a central question in the study of presidential elections—to what extent do the actual campaigns matter?—and provided an account of election dynamics that anyone with a passing knowledge of presidential elections can understand, but whose technical sophistication will be appreciated by political scientists. The Timeline of Presidential Election Campaigns will be regarded as a landmark by the presidential research community.”
(Gary C. Jacobson, University of California, San Diego)

Americans have long been fascinated with presidential election campaigns and the polls that accompany them. Each time a new poll is released, we interpret it as indicating something real about the rising or falling fortunes of candidates—and assume these changes have implications for what happens on election day. With ambitious and insightful scholarship, Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien offer a striking critique of these assumptions, issuing a startling wake-up call that suggests much of the tremendous effort—and money—spent during campaigns may in fact be a waste. Any candidate interested in winning an election should read this book, as should anyone interested in truly understanding voters.
(Jon Krosnick, Stanford University)

“What do voters make of presidential campaigns? Do they update their beliefs about the best candidate as campaigns progress? Or are their minds made up before the campaigns have even started? . . . Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien have done an excellent service in writing about how voters react to campaigns, and future research on the way in which presidential campaigns shape election outcomes would be well advised to ground their work in what Erikson and Wlezien have accomplished.”
(Political Science Quarterly 2013-09-17)

“A comprehensive and most convincing exercise. Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien lay bare the macro-dynamics of modern American presidential elections. They show how the outcomes of these elections can be predicted, and why. In their explanation of the “why,” the critical role of the campaign reveals itself. . . . Anyone seriously interested in presidential election campaigns and forecasting cannot do without it.”
(Congress and the Presidency 2013-10-07)

“Erikson and Wlezien bring the tools of time series analysis to bear on the fundamental tension that haunts every scholar, reporter, or consultant trying to understand the effects of campaigns: how much of the final outcome is determined by what the candidates do (or what happens to them) in the weeks leading up to the election and how much is driven by the things out of their control. . . . If you study presidential politics or time series analyses, there is a lot to like in Timeline. The connection between the method and the substance is close and tight, which makes this book a great example of how the right method can help illustrate important nuances in the substance of a problem. . . . But by far, the most important contribution the book makes is to illustrate that presidential campaigns matter in predictable ways.”
(Perspectives on Politics 2014-08-19)

About the Author

Robert S. Erikson is professor of political science at Columbia University and the author or coauthor of several books, including The Macro Polity.Christopher Wlezien is professor of political science at Temple University and coauthor of Degrees of Democracy, among other books.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Adams on October 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not sure what the previous reviewer was talking about, but it must have been another book. This is a seminal work that is not only timely, but also explains what many of us have wondered about the seemingly never-ending campaign season: Does it matter and, if so, why and how? Perhaps we laypeople wonder about it in less than academic terms, but thankfully Erikson and Wlezien have managed to spell things out -- about the voting public, about preferences, about how the election season moves and morphs, and ultimately how campaigns do and don't predict the outcome -- in language and ideas that virtually everyone can understand.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Western Fronts on October 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Worth mentioning that the authors of this book correctly predicted the 2012 election outcome based upon their prediction model. So I want to reemphasize that, in terms of content quality and value, this book is really a must-read!

First, this book is heavy.
By that, I mean that stylistically it reads somewhat like a journal article and some chapters are dense with statistical analysis. But the information is invaluable for those who really want to understand what effects campaigns really have, whether debate performances have ever mattered (a particularly timely topic now), when polls are predictive and when they are not, and what really matters during election season.
If the book takes an overly academic approach, it's because the authors felt that their sometimes counter-intuitive arguments required the weight of evidence behind them. And all of the findings in this book are based off of an enormous amount of research conducted over decades.
Ultimately, it's a five star book that lost about half a star (shame you can't do half-stars here) just because the writing wasn't always as clear as it could have been. As I said before, it reads at times somewhat like an academic journal article - it communicates the research findings but doesn't always present them in as structured or clear a way as one might like.

So that may disrupt the reading experience for some, getting in the way of the content - which is FANTASTIC. It's fascinating and extremely well-supported and researched. The authors are both brilliant political scientists who have been researching the subject matter for decades.
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9 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Henchman on September 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has gotten a bit of press lately, as its thesis is a counter intuitive one: American voters decide their presidential vote sometime between April and August, with conventions being a big factor in the decision and debates a non-factor. I was intrigued and ordered the book to be convinced. The back cover has a great narrative summarizing the thesis and asking key questions about the implications.

Unfortunately, the snazzy cover and provocative thesis are dressing up what is really an academic paper, with lots of regressions, formulas, asides about methodology, and complaints about data limitation. There's no narrative and few examples, and many of the charts are unreadable to anyone without a doctorate in statistics.

I'm disappointed since I imagine the authors found something interesting. They're just incapable of explaining it to a lay person.
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