on October 22, 2012
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. And this book would be invaluable for the lay-reader who wants to separate the hype from the facts in regards to what actually matters during debate season. Let me add that it would also be a fantastic supplement for any upper-level undergraduate or graduate course on elections, voter behavior, or American politics.
All in all, it's really valuable content and I suggest that anyone from the lay-person to the campaign strategist would be doing themselves a huge favor by reading this book.
on October 14, 2012
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.
on September 19, 2012
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.