ISBN is

978-0-375-41406-0 / 0375414061

The Vanishing Voter: Public Involvement in an Age of Uncertainty

by Patterson, Thomas E.

Publisher:Knopf

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

The disputed presidential election of 2000 highlighted a range of flaws in the American voting system, from ballot procedures to alleged voter intimidation to questions about the fairness of the Electoral College. But as Harvard University political scientist Thomas E. Patterson shows, one problem dwarfs all of these, a predicament that has been increasing since the 1960s and threatens the very foundations of our democracy: fewer and fewer Americans participate in elections. They are less likely to vote, less likely to contribute money to campaigns, and less likely to talk about candidates. They even are less likely to tune in the televised presidential debates.

In 1960, 63 percent of Americans voted in the presidential election; in 2000, only 51 percent did. In 1996, more Americans abstained than voted. This decline is surprising not only in itselfAmerica, as our politicians never tire of telling us, is a standard-bearer for democracybut also because it contradicts the received wisdom about voting patterns: the number of college graduates has risen, racial bars to voting have fallen, and registration laws have been simplified. Yet, even as the United States has made balloting easier and has produced more citizens who, judged by their educational achievements, should vote, the percentage of voters has decreased.

Patterson, whose landmark study Out of Order examined the effects of media saturation on the democratic process, takes a clear-eyed look at this situation. Based on more than 80,000 interviews conducted during the 2000 presidential campaign, The Vanishing Voter reveals the political sources of voter discontent. Patterson explains the parts that changes in partisan politics, media coverage, candidate strategy, and electoral reform have played in discouraging voters from going to the polls. And he suggests specific remedies for repairing the process.

Thoughtful and timely, The Vanishing Voter contains a crucial message for all who care about democracy.

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