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Polls, Expectations, and Elections

TV News Making in U.S. Presidential Campaigns

Richard Craig

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In modern American presidential campaigning, scholars and citizens have bemoaned the effects of electronic media on voters. Much has been written about the effects of television ads, media management, perceived bias, and other issues, yet one element of today’s media environment that most Americans would recognize has not been identified in the public mind: expectation setting. Journalists regularly tell audiences what actions candidates should take on the campaign trail, based solely on whether they’re leading or trailing in public opinion polls. Polls, Expectations, and Elections: TV News Making in U.S. Presidential Campaigns follows the rise and proliferation of this phenomenon through a comprehensive content analysis of transcripts of CBS Evening News broadcasts during presidential election campaigns from 1968–2012. Richard Craig uses numerous examples from these transcripts to illustrate how television news has gone from simply reporting poll data to portraying it as nearly the only motivation for anything candidates do while campaigning. He argues that with the combination of heightened coverage of campaigns and the omnipresence of poll data, campaign coverage has largely become a day-to-day series of contests, with candidates portrayed as succeeding or failing each day to meet “expectations” of what the candidate at a given position in the polls should do on the campaign trail. Highlighting the change in news media and candidate coverage, Polls, Expectations, and Elections will appeal to scholars of media studies, political communication, and journalism. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 252Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-9149-1 • Hardback • November 2014 • $100.00 • (£70.00)
978-1-4985-0628-1 • Paperback • February 2017 • $49.99 • (£32.95)
978-0-7391-9150-7 • eBook • November 2014 • $46.99 • (£31.95)
Richard Craig is associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University.
Introduction: The Democratic Process, Television, and Polls
Chapter 1: Presidential Campaigning and the Rise of Mass Media
Chapter 2: Campaigning In the Image-Making Age
Chapter 3: Polling as a Political (and Media) Necessity
Chapter 4: Lesser Expectations: Early TV Network Poll Usage
Chapter 5: Soaring Expectations: You Poll, I Jump
Chapter 6: Splintering Expectations: Poll Overkill and New Media
Chapter 7: Conclusions and Implications for Future Research
While focused on one television network, Richard Craig shows how journalists and commentators in many media use polling data to turn presidential politics into a cage match. Survey results become a narrative device in these 'unreality' shows, activating a cast of characters whose seeming ups and downs distort political reality and all too often drown out other forms of campaign coverage.
Mark Stencel, former managing editor for digital news, National Public Radio


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