The Presidential Election of 1996: Clinton's Incumbency and Television

The Presidential Election of 1996: Clinton's Incumbency and Television

The Presidential Election of 1996: Clinton's Incumbency and Television

The Presidential Election of 1996: Clinton's Incumbency and Television

Synopsis

This book is an examination of the central role of incumbency in the televised world of American presidential elections and analyzes how an individual incumbent, Bill Clinton, influenced the recurring and predictable patterns of televised news in ways that secured his reelection.

Excerpt

In the book, Presidential Elections in the Television Age: 1960-1992, I argue that mediated incumbency is superior to partisanship in explaining the outcomes of more recent national elections. By mediated incumbency, I refer to the relationships that now exist between the relative political strength of incumbent presidents and the manners in which television news media tend to understand and interpret that strength, are influenced by it, and subsequently respond by reporting it to its viewers in ways that are both recurring and predictable. These relationships, in turn, help define the contexts of elections and contribute to the creation and reinforcement of perceptions of political reality in the minds of many voters. With respect to definitions, in my previous work and in this one, I use the term television news media when referring to the organizations and reporters that produce television news programming.

The central theme that I raise is that the categories of partisanship that a generation of political scientists had used to describe the outcomes of presidential elections should be abandoned in favor of categories of incumbency. The earlier perspective saw elections as quadrennial power struggles between the Democratic and Republican parties where voters cast their ballots primarily on the basis of long-held partisanship. While certain short-term events unique to given elections would occasionally influence their choices, voters tended to give far more credence to their partisanship than to any other factor when making electoral choices. Moreover, voters'

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