Making Campaigns Count: Leadership and Coalition-Building in 1980

By Darrell M. West | Go to book overview

7
Candidate Presentations and Audience Reactions

Political observers have recognized for a long time that campaigns and coalition-building are dynamic processes. Candidates continually seek to mold public perceptions of themselves--through their speeches, campaign visits, and symbolic appeals. But they also use campaigns to learn about constituencies. The new electoral system adds urgency to this process; since presidential aspirants must develop popular support in a variety of settings, the contemporary environment places a premium on communications between candidates and their constituencies.

Though this point may seem obvious, many scholars study political processes as static phenomena. With the exception of statistical studies on "reciprocal effects," voting researchers generally analyze the electorate without considering the effect that candidates have.1 Instead, they investigate voters in isolation from candidates. Similarly, leadership studies often ignore the impact that campaigns have on candidates. Despite the fact that campaign audiences may influence candidate behavior, writers have not studied what campaigners learn from audiences.

In this chapter, I explore one aspect of the coalition-building process--how presidential contenders get feedback about their performances on the campaign trail. Few things are more important for campaigners than accurate feedback. Yet candidates rarely have clear and objective yardsticks for evaluating their public appearances. In the following sections, I suggest that one of the most immediate types of feedback that candidates have is the reactions of campaign audiences. Because of the lack of good alternatives, audience reactions are more important than generally believed.


THE NATURE OF CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS

Scholars have investigated political communications from a variety of intellectual traditions. Lasswell laid the groundwork for the field of mass communications by conceptualizing the communications perspective as "Who says What

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Making Campaigns Count: Leadership and Coalition-Building in 1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments iv
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1- Introduction 3
  • Notes 12
  • 2- The Changing Nature of Presidential Campaigns 15
  • Notes 34
  • 3- Candidates and Electoral Coalitions 39
  • Notes 62
  • 4campaign Rhetoric and the Political Agenda 69
  • Notes 92
  • 5- Constituencies and the Allocation Of Travel Time 97
  • Notes 114
  • 6- The Role of Political Symbolism 117
  • Notes 131
  • 7- Candidate Presentations and Audience Reactions 133
  • Notes 148
  • 8- Campaigns and Governance: Predicting Presidential Behavior 151
  • Notes 161
  • Appendixes 163
  • Notes 174
  • Bibliographical Essay 189
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 199
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