Shanto Iyengar is probably the most important political psychologist working in the field today. He is the first person I know of to provide scientific insight into what makes modern media campaigning so successful. If I could buy shares in academics, this would be the guy I would invest all my chips in. He will be recognised as a star in years to come.
Iyengar’s work takes on the key issues in the American Political Marketplace. Check out some of his researchat the Stanford Political Communiction Lab.
As an example, he gives fantastic insight into how negative campaigning works, and why it is bad for democracy.
What makes Iyengar different from other commentators is that he can back up pretty much everything he says from empirical evidence – surveys, past election results and controlled experiments -. A lot of the other material you can read in the field is either speculation, based solely on hunches and personal experience, or else completely obvious.
Most of the research reproduced on his website is pretty easy to read. For some of it, you might need an understanding of what’s called ‘The Lasswell Model’, after Harold Lasswell, one of PR gurus of the century. It’s also worth knowing something about Hovland, who was the first person to make experimental investigations into political psychology at the beginning of the Cold War.