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Competitive Elections and the American Voter
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Competitive Elections and the American Voter

Keena Lipsitz

264 pages | 6 x 9 | 23 illus.
Paper 2016 | ISBN 9780812223613 | $27.50s | Outside the Americas £20.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series American Governance: Politics, Policy, and Public Law
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"This book is required reading for anyone interested in the consequences of competitive elections, including those few of us who remain skeptical of their benefits."—American Review of Politics

"Competitive Elections and the American Voter offers a compelling argument for competitive elections and a careful examination of competition and television advertising in American elections. It continues a dialogue with other scholars, such as Tom Brunell and Justin Buchler, who argue that competitive congressional elections are counterproductive for American democracy. Game on."—Political Science Quarterly

"Competitive Elections and the American Voter is what political science scholarship should be: a masterful blend of theory, institutional and individual level considerations, rigorous empirical analyses, and insightful interpretation. The result is a compelling case for making elections more—but not too much more—competitive and, in doing so, improving both the quality of the information environment during campaigns and the quality of voters' participation in the electoral process."—Michael X. Delli Carpini, University of Pennsylvania

"Competitive Elections and the American Voter addresses a topic of major importance not only to political scientists, but also to political professionals, pundits, journalists, and the public as a whole. Lipsitz does a very good job at discussing various reform proposals and providing empirical data to evaluate them. This book will be widely noticed and offer a real contribution to the study of American politics."—Markus Prior, Princeton University

Tight political races with their emotionally charged debates, mud-slinging, and uncertain outcomes are stressful for voters and candidates alike, but that stress may be healthy for democracy. In Competitive Elections and the American Voter, Keena Lipsitz argues that highly contested electoral battles create an environment that allows citizens to make more enlightened decisions.

The first book to use democratic theory to evaluate the quality of campaign rhetoric, Competitive Elections and the American Voter offers a rare overview of political contests at different levels of government. Lipsitz draws on a range of contemporary democratic theories, including egalitarian and deliberative conceptions, to develop campaign communication standards. To promote the values of political competition, equality, and deliberation Lipsitz contends that voters must have access to abundant, balanced information, representing a range of voices and involving a high level of dialogue between the candidates. Using advertising data, the book examines whether competitive House, Senate, and presidential campaigns operating at the state level generate such facts and arguments. It also tests the connection between this knowledge and greater voter understanding and engagement. Because close elections can push candidates to attack their opponents, the book investigates how negative advertising affects voters as well. Given the link between electoral competitiveness and an informed electorate, the book includes reform proposals that enhance competition.

Competitive Elections and the American Voter reminds us that we avoid political controversy and conflict at our peril. This eye-opening analysis of political communication and campaign information environments encourages citizens, scholars, and campaign reformers to recognize the crucial role that well contested elections play in a democracy.

Keena Lipsitz is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Internships at Queens College, City University of New York.

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