FACT: “In the 2004 presidential election, our analysis estimates that roughly 25 percent of the voting public were persuadable partisans (another 9 percent were persuadable Independents), clearly sufficient numbers of voters to swing victory to either candidate. Of course, not all of these voters were persuaded to vote against their party’s nominee. But our analysis estimates a campaign effect of some 2.8 million partisans switching their expected vote choice in the sixteen key battleground states of the 2004 presidential campaign. Bush’s margin of victory over Kerry in those states was just 200,000 votes.”

The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns
by D. Sunshine Hillygus & Todd G. Shields

The use of wedge issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration has become standard political strategy in contemporary presidential campaigns. Why do candidates use such divisive appeals? Who in the electorate is persuaded by these controversial issues? And what are the consequences for American democracy? In this provocative and engaging analysis of presidential campaigns, Sunshine Hillygus and Todd Shields identify the types of citizens responsive to campaign information, the reasons they are responsive, and the tactics candidates use to sway these pivotal voters. The Persuadable Voter shows how emerging information technologies have changed the way candidates communicate, who they target, and what issues they talk about. As Hillygus and Shields explore the complex relationships between candidates, voters, and technology, they reveal potentially troubling results for political equality and democratic governance.

The Persuadable Voter examines recent and historical campaigns using a wealth of data from national surveys, experimental research, campaign advertising, archival work, and interviews with campaign practitioners. With its rigorous multimethod approach and broad theoretical perspective, the book offers a timely and thorough understanding of voter decision making, candidate strategy, and the dynamics of presidential campaigns.

“[P]ath-breaking. . . . The authors’ novel approach to identifying both persuadable voters and effective micro-targeting techniques provides the most powerful evidence for their argument. The Persuadable Voter reminds us that, overall, the outcome of elections and the face of politics hinge on the ability of parties, candidates, and voters to adapt to each other and to the changing nature of political appeals.”—David A. M. Peterson, Science

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8661.pdf

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