The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence

Cambridge University Press
2
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Since 1996, death sentences in America have declined by more than 60 percent, reversing a generation-long trend toward greater acceptance of capital punishment. In theory, most Americans continue to support the death penalty. But it is no longer seen as a theoretical matter. Prosecutors, judges, and juries across the country have moved in large numbers to give much greater credence to the possibility of mistakes - mistakes that in this arena are potentially fatal. The discovery of innocence, documented in this book through painstaking analyses of media coverage and with newly developed methods, has led to historic shifts in public opinion and to a sharp decline in use of the death penalty by juries across the country. A social cascade, starting with legal clinics and innocence projects, has snowballed into a national phenomenon that may spell the end of the death penalty in America.
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About the author

Frank R. Baumgartner is Miller-LaVigne Professor of Political Science at Penn State University. His previous publications include: Comparative Studies of Policy Agendas (2007), The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems (with Bryan D. Jones, 2005), Policy Dynamics (with Bryan D. Jones, 2002), and Agendas and Instability in American Politics (with Bryan D. Jones, 1993), winner of the 2001 Aaron Wildavsky Award, APSA Organized Section on Public Policy. He has been published widely in journals and serves on the editorial boards of American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Journal of European Public Policy, Policy Studies Journal, and Journal of Information Technology and Politics.

Suzanna L. De Boef is Associate Professor of Political Science at Penn State University. Her research examines the dynamics of public opinion, elections, and public policy and the statistical methods used to analyze them. Her work has appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, and Statistics in Medicine.

Amber E. Boydstun is a graduate student in Political Science at Penn State University. Her research explores the influence of issue-definition on media agenda control. She has been published in Mass Communication and Society.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Jan 7, 2008
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Pages
231
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ISBN
9781139469203
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Criminal Law / Sentencing
Political Science / American Government / General
Political Science / General
Social Science / Penology
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Media attention can play a profound role in whether or not officials act on a policy issue, but how policy issues make the news in the first place has remained a puzzle. Why do some issues go viral and then just as quickly fall off the radar? How is it that the media can sustain public interest for months in a complex story like negotiations over Obamacare while ignoring other important issues in favor of stories on “balloon boy?”
With Making the News, Amber Boydstun offers an eye-opening look at the explosive patterns of media attention that determine which issues are brought before the public. At the heart of her argument is the observation that the media have two modes: an “alarm mode” for breaking stories and a “patrol mode” for covering them in greater depth. While institutional incentives often initiate alarm mode around a story, they also propel news outlets into the watchdog-like patrol mode around its policy implications until the next big news item breaks. What results from this pattern of fixation followed by rapid change is skewed coverage of policy issues, with a few receiving the majority of media attention while others receive none at all. Boydstun documents this systemic explosiveness and skew through analysis of media coverage across policy issues, including in-depth looks at the waxing and waning of coverage around two issues: capital punishment and the “war on terror.”
Making the News shows how the seemingly unpredictable day-to-day decisions of the newsroom produce distinct patterns of operation with implications—good and bad—for national politics.
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