The Electronic Election: Perspectives on the 1996 Campaign Communication

Article excerpt

Kaid, L.L, and D.G. Bystrom (1999). The Electronic Election: Perspectives on the 1996 Campaign Communication. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum. 415 pp. Paperback, $39.95.

The 1996 election provided voters with an unprecedented variety of sources for learning about candidates, their issue positions, and their personal qualities. And the election provided a unique opportunity for scholars to examine a plethora of campaign messages, access to those messages, and message effects. The result is this ambitious and comprehensive effort.

The Electronic Election consists of 26 chapters, focuses on news coverage of the presidential (and several nonpresidential) campaigns, televised political advertising, presidential debates, and new campaign technologies. A diverse group of 39 researchers from the United States and Germany participated, collecting individual and, in some cases, simultaneous data on various aspects of the campaign.

Many of the authors make use of the Political Communication Center at the University of Oklahoma, which Kaid directs and which houses an extensive collection of television political ads. Although multiple methods are represented in this volume, by far the most common - content analysis - was used to analyze political messages, including news coverage, convention speeches and debates, candidate Internet sites, and political ads and ad watches. Other studies measured the effects of various messages on voters, using experimental and computerized research techniques. Several studies employed focus group interviews to probe in-depth responses to campaign communication. Interlaced throughout these topics and methods are projects that examined gender, ethnicity, state, national, and international politics, and political participation.

The book is divided into three parts. The first - which consists of 14 chapters - examines primarily content and effects of media coverage. There is virtually no aspect of coverage that went unexamined. The topics include national coverage, such as analyses of presidential poll stories, candidates' Web sites, network news, presidential debates, debate interpretation, and debate commentary. In addition, there were several chapters that examine noncandidate aspects, including an analysis of the media coverage of the main candidates' wives and an analysis of women's convention speeches. …