The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote

The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote

The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote

The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote


Reporting data and predicting trends through the 2008 campaign, this classroom-tested volume offers again James E. Campbell's "theory of the predictable campaign," incorporating the fundamental conditions that systematically affect the presidential vote: political competition, presidential incumbency, and election-year economic conditions.

Campbell's cogent thinking and clear style present students with a readable survey of presidential elections and political scientists' ways of studying them. The American Campaign also shows how and why journalists have mistakenly assigned a pattern of unpredictability and critical significance to the vagaries of individual campaigns.

This excellent election-year text provides:

a summary and assessment of each of the serious predictive models of presidential election outcomes;

a historical summary of many of America's important presidential elections;

a significant new contribution to the understanding of presidential campaigns and how they matter.


This book came out of a life-long fascination with presidential campaigns and an enduring ambition to find some order out of what appeared to be chaos. One of my earliest memories is of an editorial cartoon about the 1956 Eisenhower-Stevenson campaign. Many years later I studied with Tom Patterson and Bob McClure at Syracuse University and worked on their media and elections project for the 1972 campaign, a project that culminated in The Unseeing Eye and Patterson’s follow-up study of the 1976 campaign, which he reported in The Mass Media Election. My thinking about campaigns was certainly shaped by these and other experiences, as well as many observations along the way.

More concretely, this project evolved over about a decade. It began with a pair of papers I wrote on convention bumps and election forecasting (J. Campbell, Cherry, and Wink 1992; J. Campbell and Wink 1990). The presidential election forecasting project was stimulated by other forecasting research, particularly that of Michael Lewis-Beck and Tom Rice. At about the same time, in reaction to news media comments about the effects of political conventions on the poll standings of the candidates, I decided to examine the history of convention bumps more systematically. The project sought to determine not only whether conventions bumped up their presidential nominees’ poll numbers but also what affected the size of these bumps and whether the effects of conventions survived to election day or were merely temporary bursts of enthusiasm that quickly faded. In chapter 7 of this book I have reanalyzed the convention bump phenomenon.

I also began thinking seriously about the relation of election forecasting to campaigns after considering some reactions of several prominent political scientists to the growing field of election forecasting. Several scholars voiced the opinion that election forecasting was not the business of political science. In their view, political science is the business of explaining and not predicting politics. This view seemed both overly narrow to me and dismissive of the potential value of forecasting for the explanation of elections and campaigns. In this regard, I was heartened and intrigued by the research of Andrew Gelman and . . .

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