Negativity in Presidential Campaigns since 1960
Second Edition, Revised and Updated
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Sales Date: September 1, 2009
400 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2009
This second edition of Attack Politics updates Emmett Buell and Lee Sigelman’s highly regarded study of negativity in presidential campaigns since 1960 with a substantial new chapter on the 2008 contest between Barack Obama and John McCain. That campaign, the authors contend, proved to be the least negative in the last half century and reinforces their central argument that these campaigns have actually not grown “dirtier” and more negative since the election of JFK.
In this new edition, Buell and Sigelman address the same questions that guided their research in the original book. Who attacked whom? How frequently? On what issues? In what ways? And at what point in the race? They also update their analysis of whether presidential campaigns have gotten more negative since 1960, whether opposing sides addressed the same issues or avoided subjects “owned” by the other side, and whether trailing candidates wage more negative campaigns than leading candidates.
The authors expand their analysis well beyond their original research base—17,000 campaign statements extracted from nearly 11,000 news items in the New York Times—focusing on both presidential and vice-presidential nominees as sources and targets of attacks and examining the actions of surrogate campaigners. They also compare their findings with previously published accounts of these campaigns—including firsthand accounts by candidates and their confidants. Each chapter features “echoes from the campaign trail” that reflect the invective exchanged by rival campaigns.
Their new chapter shows that, rather than neatly resembling either of their typology’s extremes (“runaways” or “dead heats”), the 2008 race began as a “dead heat” in late summer but began to take on all the characteristics of a “somewhat competitive” affair by the end of September. Campaign discourse that began with an anticipated focus on the Iraq War and other national security issues came to be dominated by concerns about the economic meltdown. As the campaign headed toward the home stretch, anxiety about the economy seemed to eclipse national security, health care, immigration, and other concerns. This shift of emphasis, they argue, doomed whatever chance McCain had of winning.
Like the first edition, this update of Attack Politics systematically analyzes negative campaigning, pinning down much that has previously been speculated on but left unsubstantiated. It offers the best overview yet of modern presidential races and remains must reading for anyone interested in the vagaries of those campaigns.
“Political and media junkies will appreciate—and even be surprised by—the who, what, when, and how that Buell and Sigelman present. . . . Cogent research and analysis, plus choice quotes, mean this deserves a place in every political history collection.”—Library Journal
“A tour de force that joins John Geer’s In Defense of Negativity as a ‘must read’ for all scholars studying negative campaigns, but also for students of political communication, democratic deliberation, and campaign strategy more generally.”—Richard Lau, author of Negative Campaigning: An Analysis of U.S. Senate Campaigns
“A remarkable book [and] the indispensable ‘bible’ on the subject.—James W. Ceaser, coauthor of Red over Blue: The 2004 Elections and American Politics
Preface to the Second Edition
1. Negativity and Presidential Campaigns
2. The Runaway Races of 1964, 1972, and 1984
3. The Somewhat Competitive Races of 1988, 1992, and 1996
4. The Comeback Races of 1968 and 1976
5. The Dead Heat Race of 1960
6. The Dead Heat Race of 1980
7. The Dead Heat Races of 2000 and 2004
8. Dead Heat and Somewhat Competitive in 2008
9. Summary and Synthesis: Have Presidential Campaigns Become More Negative?
Appendix: Cold War Background to 1960 Presidential Contest