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on December 8, 2014
This author deserves high praise as she bases her findings on original data. Many political books only present an author's opinions, which are useful in their own way. This book presents academic interpretation of survey findings
.
This book explores how contrasting political information is useful in mobilizing support for candidates, yet false political information does tend to be recognized by voters for being incorrect and is rejected and leads to political backlashes against the candidate making the false statements. Further, the manner in which media reports campaigns is a major influence on how voters ultimately form their opinions.

This is an excellent book grounded in documented evidence. Readers interested in politics will find this one of the best books ever on politics and the media.
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VINE VOICEon January 3, 2001
I just finished listening to the audible.com version of this fascinating book by Kathleen Hall Jamieson. The book is filled with interesting and, at times, surprising facts about politics and political campaigning. What I particularly liked about this book is that its claims are based on research and hard evidence. The author is not just spouting her opinions, but backs up her assertions with evidence. It is clear that a lot of work went into the preparation of this text.
The book is written in a lively, concise, and entertaining style and should appeal to all types of readers, even those that might not normally read a book on politics.
If I had a criticism it is that the title overstates what the book really contains. While this book did change some of my beliefs about politics, it did not make a wholesale change in my understanding of our political system. But, catchy titles sell books so I am not going to fault the author or publisher (too much) for wanting to make this book commercially successful. My only other negative comment is that this book focuses almost entirely on politics and campaigning as they related to the presidency. Information on congressional and local politics is sparse.
The audible.com version was read by the author is she does a very good job. She has a clear, upbeat tempo that makes it easy to listen to.
Whether you're a political junkie who can't get enough of CSPAN, or someone that would just like to learn more about our political system, I think that you will enjoy reading (or listening to) this wonderful book.
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on October 2, 2001
This author deserves high praise as she bases her findings on original data. Many political books only present an author's opinions, which are useful in their own way. This book presents academic interpretation of survey findings.
This book explores how contrasting political information is useful in mobilizing support for candidates, yet false political information does tend to be recognized by voters for being incorrect and is rejected and leads to political backlashes against the candidate making the false statements. Further, the manner in which media reports campaigns is a major influence on how voters ultimately form their opinions.
This is an excellent book grounded in documented evidence. Readers interested in politics will find this one of the best books ever on politics and the media.
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on October 1, 2004
I've long felt that the critics of negative advertising have over-simplified negative advertising by lumping perfectly fair criticisms of a candidate's record into the same class with ad hominem attacks.

At last we have some statistical analysis which differentiates and shows how to properly use negative advertising without suppressing voter turnout.

The author concludes low key ads that "contrast" one candidate's record and views against the other do not suppress voter turnout and may even increase interest in a campaign. Great stuff there that I intend to use in my brother's race.

Having given the author her due for the good information she presents, reading this book is tedious. After I managed to plow through the first 2 chapters I couldn't take it anymore and skipped to the summary.

The author also states some things as fact which I consider to be personal opinions, such as her critique of the Pat Robertson, Warren Rudman imbroglio. A regrettable flaw in an otherwise scholarly book.
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on August 21, 2000
Everything You Think You Know About Politics . . . And Why You're Wrong By Kathleen Hall Jamieson Basic Books
By Dan Wick
Do you believe that presidential candidates rarely fulfill their campaign promises? That attack ads have increased in recent years? Or that campaigns are mostly hype, rarely conveying useful information to the voter? If so, Kathleen Hall Jamieson would like you to know that you're wrong.
Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a frequent and dispassionate commentator on the Jim Lehrer News Hour, Jamieson certainly knows whereof she writes. By providing a wide range of empirical studies about what actually occurs in national political campaigns, she effectively dispels myth and misperception.
On Presidential promises, for example, that putative promiscuous promise breaker, Bill Clinton, fulfilled 69% of his campaign pledges, which compares favorably with Reagan's 63% or Nixon's 60%. On negative ads, Jamieson observes that in 1996, "the proportion of pure attack ads declined by nearly half from 1980, 1988, and 1992." Public grumbling about attack ads, she says, stems from media overreporting .
Indeed, argues Jamieson, with the decline of political parties, the influence of the media on elections has greatly increased. Media coverage during the early political primaries tends to winnow the race to a contest between two major contenders so, while "the media may not be successful in telling us for whom to vote, . . .they are stunningly successful in telling us whom we may choose between."
Useful information is consistently conveyed by candidates in television ads, in their (generally ignored) stump speeches, and especially in political debates. Jamieson says that candidates almost always cite evidence supporting their views, which the media usually ignores, leaving the false impression that politicians trade exclusively in slogan and assertion.
Who knows more about politics, men or women? "The gender gap in political knowledge is real. . . .Men answer more questions about candidate positions correctly than do women." But, Jamieson argues, it may be that when political "information is at odds with their political preference, women may simply tally that fact, adjusting their preference accordingly, and . . . .fail to move that information into long-term memory." She uncharacteristically cites no evidence for this bit of wishful thinking.
The February 2000 South Carolina primary illustrates three of the book's most significant themes, Jamieson says: "First, contrast mobilizes. Second, ...voters reject [negative personal attacks]. . . .Finally, media coverage helps shape personal perceptions." So when Bush claimed that McCain had gone way over the line by comparing Bush to (horror of horrors) Bill Clinton, South Carolina voters evidently agreed, according to Jamieson. But nowhere does she discuss the religious right's whispering campaign against McCain, which amounted to a ceaseless volley of vicious attacks. In short, Jamieson is more selective in her evidence than she would like us to believe.
More than a compendium of studies debunking conventional wisdom, Everything You Think You Know About Politics is also a plea for greater civility and "engaged argument" in political campaigns: "In the speeches, ads and debates that constitute their discourse, candidates should be unambiguous and fair and should not employ guilt by association. They should also be consistent, accurate, and unbiased and tell the full story, not the partial truth." Huh? It is at this point that the reader may well wonder what alternate political universe Jamieson occupies. Of course candidates should do all of that but what politicians including the over-revered Founders, ever have?
Still, idealism aside, this is both a useful and an entertaining book. Jamieson permits herself a few wry jokes (in a brief discussion of Aristotle, she refers to political scientists' perennial "polis envy") and each chapter is introduced with a clever cartoon.
Most important, Jamieson's short book should persuade even the serial cynic that elections do matter. No small achievement in a presidential election year.
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on August 1, 2000
Kathleen Hall Jamieson is very, very smart, and very good at challenging conventional wisdom. In this book, she demolishes most of the tried-and-thought-true assumptions about politics, usually taking a more optimistic tack. The thrust of her argument is first, that the American public is not becoming less politically capable (for the most part), and second, that the media pursues its own agenda and distorts the news more than we like to admit. She makes both of these points in a somewhat messy manner, because her topics are all over the place, but it's hard to disagree with her at the end.
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on March 31, 2004
A very interesting title, but it does not live up to its name. A lot of compelling statistics, but after awhile I began to question the statistics. For instance, the author credited Clinton with the economy improvement (with a tax increase!) on page 24, when it is doubtful any President can take credit for such a broad "promise" because there are too many things the President has no control over. You may as well credit Clinton for promising the sun will rise every morning.
The book is definitely pro-Clinton, which makes me suspicious of the data being gathered. For instance, on page 64 the author states that Clinton was being misquoted about "lying" about the Lewinsky matter. Most people would say that Clinton may not be lying, but was definitely not forthcoming with the American public. The book paints Clinton as keeping more of his campaign promises as being hardworking, dedicated, and more even handed than Bush or Reagan.
The problem with this book is it is passed off as being a textbook (I pity the students who have to use it), but itself leaves a lot to interpretation. They lumped a lot of promises and comments which are meaningless into their sample to make it more credible. But most campaign promises are useless and just rhetoric at best.
One good part of the book was when they dissected actual speeches (not very many, so don't get excited) and then proceeded to show how the networks chop them up for the sound bites on the news. If they had more of that type of reporting, the book would be more interesting and actually mean more.
Too bad. A good analysis would have been interesting. This book is a Clintonite trying to make a case for Bill Clinton being the greatest President of the 20th century and how the press maligned him. Could have been written by any Democratic operative.
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on April 22, 2003
There is no argument Jamieson knows her stuff. The problem is this book reads like a textbook. Interesting at points, yet not a real "page turner."
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on April 11, 2004
Given the book is from Kathleen Jamieson I was a tad dubious the book would offer objective information. I've seen her commentary on PBS multipe times and she is a reliable spokesman for the Democrats. I thought perhaps the written word may provide her more latitude to provide alternate viewpoints, or at least express a more thorough examination of political issues than is possible in her tv clips. I could not have been more mistaken. The reviews on this page accurately describe most essays as dull, which they are. Anyone who is even remotely in touch with news sources outside of the Today Show is aware of the "sound bite" culture we live in, and the consistent disparity between public pronouncements of our elected officials and the telling details. Ho hum - we really don't need a dozen essays to tell us this. More telling would be a thorough examination of WHY this phenomenon persists, which requires more analysis of the news media which drive our political culture. Face it, most of what politicians do is performed with one finger in the wind, and that wind is largely blown from the network news studios. If they approve, then there is no problem; if they criticize and question, then our friend the politician has a problem. Preening on tv is the coin of the real for most politicians today, not the art of statecraft. The homogenous make-up of the news opinion leaders is proven left-leaning. Exhibit "A" is Walter Cronkite, once the most "trusted man in America" and now an outspoken liberal, who is also known for once saying in order to be a good journalist one HAD to be liberal. Have a look at the cumulative public and private pronouncements of Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley (married to Gary Trudeau), Dan Rather, Judy Woodruff (married to the liberal Al Hunt), Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Connie Chung, etc., etc., etc. They are all Democrat-friendly and critical of Republicans. When was the last time you heard ANY network anchor express admiration for Ronald Reagan? Of course you have not, because it hasn't happened. This is why the book is a yawner, it is mostly liberal academics decrying the state of political discourse in this nation, but they can't point the finger at the culprits of chronic misinformation because they are, in fact, their liberal brethren in the main-stream news media. Why, I may ask, is the nation over 2 years removed from economic recession, yet nearly 50% of the country still believes we are in recession? Putting aside your feelings on the economy, the empirical fact is we are NOT in recession. This is an indictment of the news media, that the people are so terribly misinformed about something so important as the economic state of their country. They should be ashamed at their terrible reporting, but dont' bet a lobster on it. They are certainly proud, as they have somehow saddled a Republican president with the image of a bad economy in an election year. Clinton's economic numbers were not much better than Bush's, yet the media consistently trumpeted his handling of the economy (which was in strong growth when he came into office, and was in negative growth when he left). For a truly informative book on understanding the underpinnings of American political discourse, ignore this book and pick up "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. It is neither liberal nor conservative, but the watershed work on how our basic cultural values limit what we are capable (collectively, not individually) of understanding about politics and the nation in general. Good times come and go, but stupid is forever. The title of Ms. Jamieon's book is as misleading as its contents, and the perfect embodiment of the empty-headed academic pseudo-insights we'd all benefit by avoiding.
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on December 13, 2000
There's no way to defend the politicians, and politics. We don't really nead either. All we need is liberty.
The Law by Frederic Bastiat: The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, l say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.
The PLAN: (1) Government should provide ONLY for the national defense and enforce laws that protect all citizens' inalienable rights. All other (and there are numerous) agencies can be eliminated if JUST and FAIR laws are simply enforced. FORCE for any reason, is UNacceptable, except ONLY for self defense. How could anyone reject a government that protects all persons' inalienable rights. (2) The only taxes Government can collect are from a sales tax on a limited number of categories (food, medical, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and education will NOT be taxed). Since national defense is about 280 Billion per year, and there are 272 million Americans, the annual cost would only be about $1029 per person (AMAZING ISN'T IT?) INCOME TAX would be abolished. If governments OVER TAX something, people simply won't buy it or they'll resort to black market.
(3) Americans are VERY generous. Charity and donations will take care of the truly needy. (4) Local governments can use a sales tax on a limited number of categories (food, medical, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and education will NOT be taxed) to finance law enforcement to protect the inalienable rights of all citizens. The most important LAWs are VERY simple, NO-nonsense, JUST COMMON-SENSE. FORCE is acceptable to preserve one's own inalienable rights, or for self defense (deadly force if necessary). These inalienable rights are already VERY WELL DEFINED. ANY PERSON can do ANYTHING they want ANYTIME they want as long as they violate NO other PERSON's INALIENABLE RIGHTS. Any one who violates some other persons' RIGHTS, will then forfeit their OWN inalienable rights; punishment and/or restitution will be firm and just. Those that can't function within society will be removed, so that they can NOT harm or violate any persons' inalienable rights. (5) Voting for politicians will not be necessary. Instead, the PEOPLE will hire PEOPLE to perform certain jobs for the community. If they are unqualified or don't do they're jobs satisfactorily, that job will be given to someone who can do it better. They can keep their job as long as they are able to perform that job. If the PEOPLE don't like how that job is being performed, they simply STOP paying that person to do that JOB (SEE HOW SIMPLE IT IS?) However, if communities wish to hold elections for some positions, they can do so, but it's really not necessary. REMEMBER, THERE'S NO LAWS THAT PREVENT ANYONE FROM DOING ANYTHING they want ANYTIME they want as long as they violate NO other PERSONs' INALIENABLE RIGHTS...but do you really want to start that political circus all over AGAIN ? (6) For all the other things people want (e.g. social security, medicare, eductation). THAT'S EVERY INDIVIDUAL'S OWN RESPONSIBILITY. For the truly needy, I'm confident that society will help those persons. If we don't have enough faith in our species to do that, then perhaps we don't deserve to survive and probably won't. (7) Society would flourish and thrive beyond anything we've ever seen without the oppression we all currently endure. Unobstructed business and commerce would flourish. We've tried everything (e.g. Socialism, Communism, Democratic Republic, etc.) The ONLY thing we have NOT tried is the MOST simple. All the other systems are vulnerable to LAZINESS and FEAR which leads to theft (e.g. the IRS performs legal theft). Currently the LAWs are perverted to serve the parasites. Those parasites will not relinquish their control so easily....and we'll never be rid of them as long as we empower them. Society must first educate themselves to recognize the parasites (e.g. most politicians, lawyers, the IRS, government bureaucrats, etc.) and have nothing to do with them, don't support them, don't allow them to continue to cheat and thrive from the hard work of others without ever producing any NET benefit to society.
People constantly speak of "the government" doing this or that, as they might speak of God doing it. But the government is really nothing but a group of men, and usually they are very inferior men. They may have some better man working for them, but they themselves are seldom worthy of any respect. - H.L. Mencken
What is history but the story of how politicians have squandered the blood and treasure of the human race. - Thomas Sowell
Whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together. - Jonathan Swift
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