Debatable Humor represents the first systematic foray into understanding the use of humor by politicians on the campaign trail. Using content analysis of primary debates for both Republican and Democratic parties during the 2008 presidential election, Patrick A. Stewart considers not just how humor was used, who used it, and how successful these attempts at humor were, but he also gives readers insight regarding why humor and the laughter that results is an important part of politics. Not only can humor reveal a candidate’s intelligence, values, personality, and his/her connection with the audience, it also reveals the underlying values of egalitarian political systems.
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Patrick A. Stewart is assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas.Review:
This analysis of a unique and rich data set sheds light on how citizens come to judgment and moves the frontier of empirical political humor research forward. Stewart has written a book that is both timely, given the increased amount of political humor available to individuals in this cable TV and Internet age, and provocative. (Jody Baumgartner, East Carolina University)
This is a careful, scientific look at the underrated role that humor plays in politics. Grounded in evolutionary principles, the author's highly original research offers a novel perspective of contemporary U.S. politicians and parties. Anyone interested in political campaigns and personal appeal in general will find this book consistently enlightening. (Glenn Weisfeld, Wayne State University)
Quietly over the past several years, a new specialty has emerged in political science on the influence of political humor in electoral politics. With Debatable Humor, Patrick Stewart establishes himself as an important voice in this new terrain—and he delivers. Drawing on evolutionary biology and social influence theory, Stewart lays out an empirically grounded, insightful case for why political humor and the nonverbal communication that accompanies it matters on the campaign trail. The insights from this innovative research show the serious side of humor and laughter in presidential politics and broaden our understanding of how candidates are perceived: not by words alone. (Erik Bucy, Associate Professor, Adjunct, Indiana University, Vice President, Research, SmithGeiger LLC; author, Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections)
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