Spiral of Cynicism: The Press and the Public Good

Paperback | February 1, 1997

byJoseph N. Cappella, Kathleen Hall Jamieson

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Why do some citizens vote while others do not? Why does less than half of the American voting public routinely show up at the polls? Why is it that the vast majority of political issues affecting our day-to-day lives fail to generate either public interest or understanding? These questionshave troubled political scientists for decades. Here, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella provide the first conclusive evidence to date that it is indeed the manner in which the print and broadcast media cover political events and issues that fuels voter non-participation. This book illustrates precisely how the media's heavy focus on the game of politics, rather than on its substance, starts a "spiral of cynicism" that directly causes an erosion of citizen interest and, ultimately, citizen participation. Having observed voters who watched and read different sets ofreports--some saturated in strategy talk, others focused on the real issues--the authors show decisive links between the way in which the media covers campaigns' and voters' levels of cynicism and participation. By closely monitoring media coverage among sample audiences for both the recent mayoralrace in Philadelphia and the national health care reform debate, the authors confront issues concerning the effects of issue-based and competitive-based political coverage. Finally, they address the question repeatedly asked by news editors, "Will the public read or watch an alternative mediacoverage that has more substance?" The answer their findings so clearly reveal is "yes." Spiral of Cynicism is a pioneering work that will urge the media to take a close look at how it covers political events and issues, as well as its degree of culpability in current voter dissatisfaction, cynicism, and non-participation. For, in these pages, a possible cure to such ills is just whatJamieson and Cappella have to offer. Moreover, their work is likely to redefine the terms of the very debate on how politics should be covered in the future.

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From Our Editors

The cynic tends to hold that the political system is corrupt; its players are Machiavellian partisans uninterested in the public good, its process driven by a concern with winning, not governing. Because we cannot know what motivates an individual and because any action can be recast to serve some selfish end, the cynic's position is u...

From the Publisher

Why do some citizens vote while others do not? Why does less than half of the American voting public routinely show up at the polls? Why is it that the vast majority of political issues affecting our day-to-day lives fail to generate either public interest or understanding? These questionshave troubled political scientists for decades....

From the Jacket

The cynic tends to hold that the political system is corrupt; its players are Machiavellian partisans uninterested in the public good, its process driven by a concern with winning, not governing. Because we cannot know what motivates an individual and because any action can be recast to serve some selfish end, the cynic's position is u...

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of a number of books, including Packaging the Presidency which won the Winans-Wichelns Book Award, and Eloquence in an Electronic Age which won the Speech Communication Association's Golden Anniversary Book Awa...

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Kobo ebook|Jan 23 2012

$7.69 online$9.99list price(save 23%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.19 × 5.51 × 0.83 inPublished:February 1, 1997Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195090640

ISBN - 13:9780195090642

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From Our Editors

The cynic tends to hold that the political system is corrupt; its players are Machiavellian partisans uninterested in the public good, its process driven by a concern with winning, not governing. Because we cannot know what motivates an individual and because any action can be recast to serve some selfish end, the cynic's position is ultimately not contestable. If an inherent conflict exists between the self-interest of a political leader and the public good, then press reports of self-interested political action are not cynical but realistic.

Editorial Reviews

"This landmark study is pregnant with profound implications on the proper coverage of politics by the mass media and the proper conduct of politics by citizens and elites alike. It merits a broad audience among politicians, journalists, and engaged citizens, and it promises to be an invaluabletext in undergraduate and graduate courses."--Harvard International Journal of Press and Politics