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Communicating Politics

Engaging the Public in Democratic Life


Mitchell S. McKinney, Lynda Lee Kaid, Dianne G. Bystrom and Diana B. Carlin

Half of our eligible citizens fail to cast a presidential ballot and many more than half routinely ignore state and local elections. Does this phenomenon point to a crisis of democracy or does such behavior simply reflect indifference – or even contentment – among the public? Should we be alarmed that so many of our citizens seem disinterested and unwilling to participate in the various activities and forms of association that constitute civic life? If we are concerned by such matters, what might be done to reengage those who are seemingly disengaged? This book explores these questions and examines the well being of our civic condition at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Grounded in a communication perspective, we view the fundamental nature of a democracy as that of a civic dialogue – an ongoing conversation between our elected leaders or political candidates and the citizens they lead or wish to lead. Accordingly, the studies presented in this volume examine our civic sphere and the electoral process as a communicative interaction between elected officials, political candidates, the media, and citizens.
Contents: Mitchell S. McKinney/Lynda Lee Kaid/Dianne G. Bystrom: The Role of Communication in Civic Engagement – Michael X. Delli Carpini: An Overview of the State of Citizens’ Knowledge About Politics – Trevor Parry-Giles/Shawn J. Parry-Giles: An Optimistic Reassessment of Political Communication in the United States – Bey-Ling Sha/La Verne V. Collins: Communicating the Importance of Civic Participation in Census 2000: «How America Knows What America Needs» – Chester J. Culver: How Government Can Enhance Civic Engagement: A Perspective from the State – Curtis Gans: Reflections on Civic Engagement I. Low Voter Turnout and the Decline of American Civic Participation – Ellen Shearer: Reflections on Civic Engagement II. Nonvoters: Who Are America’s No-Shows? – David L. Paletz: Communicating Politics Through the Media: What’s Wrong and How Can We Fix It? – Erik P. Bucy: The Media Participation Hypothesis – Dianne G. Bystrom: Media Content and Candidate Viability: The Case of Elizabeth Dole – Stephanie Greco Larson: Public Voices on Network News: Broadening the Discussion – L. Patrick Devlin: Advertising Messages: Direct Candidate to Voter Communication in the 2000 Presidential Primaries – Lynda Lee Kaid/Ben Keener/Mike Chanslor: Visual Manipulations in Political Spot Ads in the 2000 Presidential Primaries: A Source of Voter Alienation? – Suzanne Larson/Patricia Paystrup: The Internet and Democracy: John McCain’s New Approach to Politicking – James E. Tomlinson: Campaigning in Cyberspace: Lessons for Political Communication in the «Net» Century – Anne Hildreth/Leah A. Murray/J. Cherie Strachan: The Limitations of E-Democracy – Mitchell S. McKinney: Engaging Citizens Through Presidential Debates: Does the Format Matter? – Diana B. Carlin: Debate Watch: Creating a Public Sphere for the Unheard Voices – Sander Vanocur: Reflections on Presidential Debates I. A Presidential Debates Retrospective – Edward M. Fouhy: Reflections on Presidential Debates II. Presidential Debates Help Voters Find the Information They Need, When They Need It – Marilyn S. Roberts/Guy Golan: Issues, Inclusion, and Illusion: The 2000 Republican National Convention Reaches Out – Amy B. Caiazza: Making Politics Responsive to Women: Gender, Policy, and Political Participation – Mary Christine Banwart: Engaging the Gap: Exploring the Gender Gap and Its Influence on the 2000 Presidential Election – Ann E. Burnette: Courting Women Voters: Candidate Message Strategies and the Gender Gap – Arla Bernstein: Political Interest and Media Use: Analyzing the Youth Vote – Julia A. Spiker: Engaging the Disengaged: Understanding Young Citizens’ Political Malaise.