Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns Paperback – September 17, 2013
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
“Enlightening.” —The New Yorker
“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
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
The book's narrative is a collection of smaller stories. There are brief biographies of those who developed and refined new approaches to collecting and using voter data. There are success and failure stories of various campaigns and of major battles within those campaigns. And there are the specific tactics these people deploy. It is impossible to list them all, so here are a few:
- Using public records, pollsters mailed each person in a precinct a list of who had voted and who had not voted in the last election--along with an announcement of their plan to mail out updated lists after the next election. This increased voter turnout by 20%. When this strategy as put into practice, the mailers went only to voters likely to support the pollster's candidate, resulting in a selective increase in voter turnout.
- It is very difficult to sell new tactics. "If you do something different, everyone will point at the thing you did different and say that's why you lost. So if you're the campaign manager you don't do anything different. If you follow the rule book strictly they can't blame anything on you."
- Researchers do not find sufficient similarity among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to use these broad categories. Instead they develop more specific typologies, such as the one from Times Mirror: "Two of the clusters were distinctly Republican (Enterprisers and Moralists), four Democratic (New Dealers, Sixties Democrats, the Partisan Poor, and the Passive Poor), and two leaning in each direction (Upbeats and Disaffecteds towards the Republicans, Seculars and Followers towards the Democrats). Eleven percent of American adults were found to be fully, and seemingly permanently, detached from politics; Times Mirror called them Bystanders." (See Pew Research's web site for a more current example of such a political typology.)
- It's no surprise that telling people they "should" do something produces defensiveness and resistance to change. But telling them that a large number of other people are doing it increases their chances of doing the same. This approach, developed by social psychologists to encourage general prosocial behavior, translated well to get-out-the-vote programs.
- Prospective voters asked if they would vote for an African-American often answer positively when they have privately decided they are not comfortable doing so. This has led to vote overestimates for African-American candidates. Researchers found they could get more accurate estimates by asking prospective voters if they thought their neighbors would vote for an African-American. This approach worked as "...a way of correcting for the inability of voters to be as honest and self-aware as pollsters like to pretend they are."
The book provides a readable and seemingly thorough account of how campaign tactics have developed in the age of big data. I would be a more valuable book if some of the biographical information were removed in favor of more detailed description of campaign tactics and statistical procedures. As written, it gives a sense of these techniques and how they are used. More detail is needed, if not in this book, then in a companion volume that is more methods-oriented. I'd like to see Sasha Isenberg write something like what the forensic linguist John Olsson has produced, both a serious text, Forensic Linguistics and a popular audience collection of interesting cases, Wordcrime.
The book discusses this approach in detail - in fact, too much detail. Some of the history - especially the early days through the 1992 campaigns - is interesting. The remaining parts of the book - taking the reader to the 2012 election - becomes redundant and bogs down in names and seemingly endless and forgettable small vignettes and names of data scientists and rehashed approaches.
There is very little actionable here for most political scientists. It is more of a history than a how-to. Probably a useful read for someone fascinated by the subject, but for the casual reader, the book gets quite dry after the first 200 pages.
It's also refreshing how well he traces the topic from 1920s Ivory Tower disciplinary squabbles to transit buses in Akron, merging the academic with the tactics, all the while hoisting up the dedication and curiosity of so many individuals without whom this revolution seemingly would not be the same. The 'strivers' are all so quintessentially American that you really just have to smile about how great a political journalist he is!
While the content is interesting, the pace of the book is painfully slow. There are so many different stories about so many different data bases and computer models that the book becomes difficult to comprehend and follow. I would not recommend this book to anyone who is short of time and looking for a quick information upload book.
This book gives great insights into how to organize, collect data, refine them, through aggregation and disaggregation
protocols. So this is what makes Nick Silver such a genius!