Spiral of Cynicism: The Press and the Public Good

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Oxford University Press, May 1, 1997 - Political Science - 336 pages
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 questions have 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 of reports--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 mayoral race 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 media coverage 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 what Jamieson 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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Contents

1 The President the Speaker and the Press
3
2 Cynicism or Realism?
17
3 Framing the News
38
4 The Cognitive Bases for Framing Effects
58
5 Designing the Studies
87
6 Learning from Strategic and Issue Coverage
110
7 Activating the Publics Cynicism about Politics
139
Explaining Media Framing
170
9 Contagious Cynicism
209
10 Breaking the Spiral of Cynicism
229
Appendixes
247
Notes
281
Index
321
Copyright

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About the author (1997)

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 Award, and Dirty Politics. Joseph N. Cappella is Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and a fellow of the International Communication Association. He is the author Multivariate Techniques in Human Communication Research and Sequence and Pattern Communication Behaviors.

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