Why are Americans staying away from the polls on Election Day in ever increasing numbers? Based on thousands of interviews conducted by his Vanishing Voter team during the 2000 presidential campaign, author Thomas E. Patterson concludes that Americans can no longer easily distinguish between the two major parties; the campaign is too long; voting is still not an easy process (many states have out-of-date registration requirements); and journalists are now interpreting for us what candidates say instead of letting us hear the candidates themselves. For each minute Bush or Gore spoke on the evening news, journalists covering them spoke for six minutes. Patterson offers solid suggestions he thinks would return excitement to presidential campaigns. Some of his suggestions include shortening the campaign and giving voters of each state a meaningful vote in the spring primaries; increasing broadcast coverage of primary debates, conventions and candidate interviews; eliminating the Electoral College, allowing Election Day registration, keeping the polls open later, and making Election Day a national holiday to promote higher participation.
The Vanishing Voter Project was designed to understand the factors that affect public involvement in a presidential campaign. This project was funded by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts and focused on the 2000 presidential campaign. Marvin Kalb collaborated with author Thomas Patterson from the beginning stages of this project and the two directed it together. The author teaches at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and has written five other books on politics.
Reviewed by mc, 11/02. Other reviews by mc.