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The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns Hardcover – September 11, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1St Edition edition (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030795479X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307954794
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From political reporter Issenberg comes this very interesting look at the way political consultants and professional vote-getters manipulate people into casting their votes for certain candidates. Although the field has seen some serious innovations over the years—computer models, highly detailed research tools, the use of cutting-edge behavioral psychology to predict how voters will mark their ballots, and more—it’s not a new endeavor. As far back as the 1920s, people like political scientist Harold Foote Gosnell, frustrated by his profession’s inability to explain why people voted the way they did, began looking for new tools to understand and predict voter behavior. By the mid–1940s, social psychologist Angus Campbell was developing “the first systematic effort to explain how presidential elections were decided,” including a massive survey that was the forerunner of the American National Election Studies, a key tool in a field that, today, is a $6 billion-a-year industry. Given its lively subject matter, its equally lively prose, and its timely release—it will hit the shelves two months before Americans go to the polls—this is pretty much guaranteed to generate high interest among readers. --David Pitt

Review

“Indispensable. . . . Issenberg has a firm grounding in the political universe. . . . [He] paints his insurgents in heroic terms, putting the spotlight on campaign warriors few of us have ever heard of. . . . [The Victory Lab is] a magical mystery tour of contemporary campaigns. By the end, a lot of the mystery will become clear, and you’ll know a whole lot more about what’s behind those calls and letters jamming your phone lines and mailboxes.” —Jeff Greenfield, The Washington Post

“[The Victory Lab] traces an under-reported element of the evolution of campaign tactics over nearly a half-century in an unusually accessible and engaging manner. . . . A timely, rare, and valuable attempt to unveil the innovations revolutionizing campaign politics.” —The New Republic

“Brainy.” —New York

“A magnificently reported and wonderfully written book, full of eye-opening revelations and a colorful cast of characters whose groundbreaking strategies and tactics have injected 21st-century science into politics and changed it forever in the process. The Victory Lab is essential for anyone who wants to understand what really goes on along the campaign trail—and a delight for those who simply enjoy a terrific read.” —John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, authors of Game Change

“Sasha Issenberg cracks open the secretive realm of modern campaigns, revealing a revolution that is influencing not only who wins elections but also the fate of the nation.  This is a terrific and important book.” —David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

“Sasha Issenberg is our most acute observer of the modern political campaign. With vivid portraiture and crystal-clear prose, he takes us beyond the charge-and-counter-charge, the rallies and stump speeches, to show us the hidden persuaders. This is the politics you'll never see on the nightly news.” —Richard Ben Cramer, author of What it Takes

More About the Author

Sasha Issenberg is the Washington correspondent for Monocle. He covered the 2008 presidential campaign for The Boston Globe as a national political reporter, and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Slate, and George, where he served as a contributing editor. He is the author of The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy, published in 2007.

Customer Reviews

The basic premise of the book is that marketing and - well - manipulation techniques are in use in political campaigns.
Kristi Gilleland
I think that also explains why some readers felt the book was too long; however, for those whose interest in the book is more serious, length is not an issue.
S.E.
The book is definitely worth reading, as an insight into this highly complex and evolved method of winning political campaigns.
Joel Avrunin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I basically agree with previous reviewers Paul Tognetti and Dan Bobinski that this book presents some interesting research but is too long and repetitious. However my main complaint is different. This book does not reveal, as the subtitle claims, "The secret science of winning campaigns." The author appears to have had a preconceived storyline, the Moneyball of politics, which doesn't fit the facts. Unfortunately, this framing causes the author to miss a much more interesting and important story contained in this material.

The Victory Lab traces a nearly century-long academic quest that began with a simple question: Why do some people not vote? Extensive laboratory and field research has thrown some fascinating light on this question, which goes to the heart of what democracy means. Which people vote affects more than the result of an election, it affects group identities and how people feel about the result and how the elected officials act, which in turn set the political environment for the next election, and thereby is an essential determinant of the nature of civil society. The most interesting thinkers profiled in the book deal with these issues in their full complexity.

Some of the theory and experimental data developed in this quest might be useful for influencing close elections. This is the main focus of the book, which leads the author to spend too much time on shallow thinkers with narrow partisan (or in some cases merely financial) goals. Yes, it's impressive how much you can influence people's decision whether to vote through simple micro-targeted threats, bribes and even mere contacts. But it's not clear that these are cost-effective ways to influence elections.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By not a natural on August 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sasha Issenberg's book The Victory Lab is well written and, for the most part, quite interesting. It is, however, a good deal longer than need be to tell its story. This is due to the author's interest in not only explaining recent developments in mounting effective political campaigns, but also giving a good deal of attention to the history of such efforts, including background on the principal participants over the last forty years. I had not expected the historical material in a book subtitled "The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns," and it sometimes gets in the way of a streamlined presentation of technical issues. The book presupposes little or no knowledge of research design, statistics, or measurement theory. That's all to the good, but if the text included less chatty historical coverage and more discussion of the fundamentals of pertinent quantitative techniques, The Victory Lab would be a more satisfying read.

The two basic themes that undergird Issenberg's account are micro-targeting of prospective voters and random assignment of treatment and control status to permit interpretable comparisons. Micro-targeting means gaining access to individuals and small, homogeneous groups rather than using data aggregated to the precinct, county, or other geographical level. Micro-targeting enables political analysts and operatives to identify conveniently small groups that do not correspond to pre-drawn geographical or administrative boundaries and to use their peculiar characteristics to focus get-out-the-vote campaigns and messages tailored to enhance the appeal of a specific candidate. The shopworn,conventional, broad-brush alternative is to use existing data sets that aggregate measures to a higher level, such as the county.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My, how times have changed! In years gone by political campaigns hoped to drum up support utilizing the traditional methods of radio and television ads, direct mail and polling. This was the approach favored by those whom author Sasha Issenberg dubs "the gurus". According to Issenberg "the gurus were the celebrated political wise men whose practices had become the political default, thanks to their success serving up a cocktail of lore and myth, anecdote and inertia that could so thoroughly intoxicate the candidates who paid their bills." But in the view of a growing number of political scientists these methods were rapidly becoming outdated due to the advent of an array of exciting new technologies. All of a sudden it was possible to identify "undecided" voters who might be sympathetic to your candidate and to "nudge" non-voters as well. These innovative new get-out-the vote (GOTV)strategies being championed by the so-called "geeks" who worked quietly behind the scenes would pose a direct threat to the entrenched and high-profile political consultants. This ongoing battle between the "geeks" and the "gurus" is the story Sasha Issenberg tells in "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns". I had very high hopes for this book when I plucked it off the Amazon Vine. But for reasons that I will discuss shortly I came away a bit disappointed.

Perhaps the most important lesson that campaigns have learned from the political scientists is that finding small, refined batches of voters really matters. This is a strategy that is very cost effective and runs counter to the traditional radio and television buys and newspaper ads favored by the consultants.
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