Over the past decade, the public's opinion of Congress has declined--election after election--to record lows. Mark J. Rozell examines the electorate's ongoing disgust with its legislature and the reasons for it. Putting recent Congresses in historical perspective, he notes that our modern representatives are actually "less" corrupt than those of the past, due in large measure to increased public scrutiny and ongoing tightening of ethics and conflict of interest rules. Still, the public remains skeptical, indeed hostile, toward that most representative of our national institutions. Rozell finds that much of the blame goes to highly negative press coverage of the Congress, and government in general, and that while Congress has always been a favorite target of critics and comedians, healthy skepticism has now largely been replaced by a debilitating cynicism that undermines the foundations of representative government. A major study which will be of interest to scholars and students of American politics, government, and media.
Larson’s book is a case study of the way constituents reacted to local media coverage of Democrat Bill Nelson, representative of a congressional district in east-central Florida. The book examines the relationship between Nelson, his local press, and his constituents in order to understand the media’s role in representation. Having conducted what she terms a social experiment, Larson presents the results of a panel survey of voters that measured what voters knew about Nelson and how supportive they were of him. She highlights a number of factors of growing importance in the field of political communication. For instance, How do the media affect audience perceptions? What information will change voters’ attitudes? How does personality affect the popularity of a representative? Does good or bad news have a greater effect on voters?
Larson concludes that the media can educate voters, but because voters often do not use the information to evaluate their legislators, the media do not facilitate issue representation.