Cloth $75.00 ISBN: 9780226023014 Published April 2013
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226023151 Published April 2013
E-book $7.00 to $25.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226023298 Published May 2013

Political Tone

How Leaders Talk and Why

Roderick P. Hart, Jay P. Childers, and Colene J. Lind

Roderick P. Hart, Jay P. Childers, and Colene J. Lind

304 pages | 53 line drawings, 7 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $75.00 ISBN: 9780226023014 Published April 2013
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226023151 Published April 2013
E-book $7.00 to $25.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226023298 Published May 2013
It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Solving problems with words is the essence of politics, and finding the right words for the moment can make or break a politician’s career. Yet very little has been said in political science about the elusive element of tone.

In Political Tone, Roderick P. Hart, Jay P. Childers, and Colene J. Lind analyze a range of texts—from speeches and debates to advertising and print and broadcast campaign coverage— using a sophisticated computer program, DICTION, that parses their content for semantic features like realism, commonality, and certainty, as well as references to religion, party, or patriotic terms. Beginning with a look at how societal forces like diversity and modernity manifest themselves as political tones in the contexts of particular leaders and events, the authors proceed to consider how individual leaders have used tone to convey their messages: How did Bill Clinton’s clever dexterity help him recover from the Monica Lewinsky scandal? How did Barack Obama draw on his experience as a talented community activist to overcome his inexperience as a national leader? And how does Sarah Palin’s wandering tone indicate that she trusts her listeners and is open to their ideas?

By focusing not on the substance of political arguments but on how they were phrased, Political Tone provides powerful and unexpected insights into American politics.
Katherine Cramer Walsh, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Political Tone is a novel, masterly, and beautifully written examination of the American political landscape with attention to the campaign rhetoric of every presidential campaign from 1948 to the present. The authors have carefully marshaled a wealth of data to reveal patterns—some strikingly counterintuitive—in the political communication environment over the last six decades. A marvelous undertaking.”
Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard University
“Fascinating and important, Political Tone offers a word-based journey through political time, space, and personality. It shows why tone belongs with framing and agenda-setting at the core of political communication research and why tone trumps word manipulation as a strategic tool. This book is a must-read for practitioners and students alike.”
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, University of Pennsylvania
Political Tone is an original, engaging, and provocative exploration of a rhetorical element that belongs in the canon of every serious student of contemporary discourse.”
Political Communication
“Political tone is a concept that is central to the study of political communication, but we have applied this concept without a thorough appreciation of its nuanced complexity. Hart, Childers, and Lind have filled this void by authoring a richly descriptive analysis of political tone. Just as their book reveals the many complexities of political tone, it also raises numerous questions for future research to investigate. . . . An important addition to political communication scholarship, one that is not limited to a single approach but should appeal to scholars who study politics from a political science, rhetoric, or communications point of view. . . . It—and works like it—can inspire future research to blend the contributions of these diverse yet necessarily interrelated fields of politics even beyond the core set of compelling findings this volume offers.”
Choice
“Hart, Childers, and Lind have analyzed approximately 30,000 texts from politicians, journalists, and citizens, focusing on discourse about presidents and presidential elections. An impressive and thought-provoking book that is a very pleasant read. Recommended.”
Presidential Studies Quarterly
"For a concept as ubiquitous as tone, there is surprisingly little research as it relates to politics. Political Tone fills that void, examining how politicians craft their rhetoric under a variety of different circumstances, why they pick the tone they do, and postulating about the effects of tone on public perceptions. . . . Political Tone makes an impact and will definitely be interesting to an academic audience. At the same time, it is generally accessible to undergraduates, journalists, and anyone who is interested in presidential rhetoric."
Contents
PART I. Understanding Language

CHAPTER 1.  The Mysteries of Political Tone

PART II. Societal Forces

CHAPTER 2.  Diversity and the Accommodating Tone
CHAPTER 3.  Partisanship and the Balanced Tone
CHAPTER 4.  Modernity and the Urgent Tone
CHAPTER 5.  Institutions and the Assertive Tone

PART III. Personal Forces

CHAPTER 6.  Scandal and the Resilient Tone
CHAPTER 7.  Complexity and the Measured Tone
CHAPTER 8.  Inexperience and the Neighborly Tone
CHAPTER 9.  Ambition and the Wandering Tone

PART IV. Beyond Language

CHAPTER 10.  The Possibilities of Political Tone

Notes
References
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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