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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Chapter Six: Defining Fairness in the Economic Rhetoric of the 2012 Presidential Election


← 96 | 97 → CHAPTER SIX


In June 2012, the Pew Research Center polled Americans to find out what they believed were the most important issues in that year’s presidential election. The top four responses were jobs (35%), the budget deficit (23%), health care (19%), and Social Security (11%)—all economic matters. No other issue, even immigration and gay marriage, garnered more than 5%. In early September, a similar poll conducted by CBS News and The New York Times received only two answers shared by more than 10% of the population—the economy and jobs (37%) and health care (11%). And in an exit poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal on November 6, 2012, voters identified the economy (59%) and the federal budget deficit (15%) as the most important issues facing the country only moments after casting ballots (King, Lee, & Nelson, 2012). Compared to years like 1988 and 2000 when Gallup found that only 24% and 9%, respectively, of the country thought the economy was the most important problem, the nation’s most recent election was clearly and decisively focused on economic concerns.

Anyone paying attention to the United States’ economy during the years leading up to the 2012 presidential election would, of course, be quite unsurprised that so many of the American people were focused on pocketbook issues. The nation was still struggling to recover from the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression some 80 years...

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