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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Edited By 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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Conclusion: Reflections on the 2012 Election: An Agenda Moving Forward


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As we reflect on the analyses of the 2012 presidential campaign presented in the preceding chapters—now more than a year after the election—we find ourselves as a nation still emerged in divisive and partisan political rhetoric. The effects of such partisan polarization is evidenced not only by the gridlock in Congress—which led to a 16-day government shutdown in October 2013—but also by public opinion polls showing American citizens largely fed up by the constant bickering, unwillingness to compromise, and lack of action by their political leaders.

For example, the public’s approval of Congress dipped to an all-time low of 9% in November 2013 with the majority of respondents citing “party gridlock, bickering, and not compromising” for their disdain (Newport, 2013). President Barack Obama’s approval ratings averaged in the mid-40s for most of 2013, with an all-time low of 37% in November 2013 (Dutton, De Pinto, Salvanto, & Backus, 2014). Political parties fared even worse, with only 34% of citizens approving of the performance of Democrats in Congress and an even fewer 25% approving of congressional Republicans in January 2014 (Langer, 2014).

Still, will the public’s discontent about their political institutions, leaders, and representatives make a difference in the approaching 2014 midterm and 2016 general elections? Or, as Langer (2014, para. 2) suggests, can both political parties take solace in these “hold-your-nose” polling results because “however unloved, somebody’s got...

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