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What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning

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  • Jared Barton
  • Marco Castillo
  • Ragan Petrie

Abstract

Political campaigns spend millions of dollars each voting cycle on persuading voters, and it is well established that these campaigns do affect voting decisions. What is less understood is what element of campaigningÑthe content of the message or the delivery method itselfÑ sways voters, a question that relates back to how advertising works generally. We use a field experiment in a 2010 general election for local office to identify the persuasive mechanism behind a particular form of campaigning: candidate door-to-door canvassing. In the experiment, the candidate either canvassed a household or left literature without meeting the voters. In addition, the literature either contained information on the candidate or on how to vote. Our main result is that voters are most persuaded by personal contact (the delivery method), rather than the content of the message. Given our setting, we conclude that personal contact seems to work, not through social pressure, but by providing a costly or verifiable signal of quality. Length: 49
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Suggested Citation

  • Jared Barton & Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie, 2014. "What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 293-326, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:econjl:v:124:y:2014:i:574:p:f293-f326
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/ecoj.2014.124.issue-574
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Hungerman, Daniel & Rinz, Kevin & Weninger, Tim & Yoon, Chungeun, 2018. "Political campaigns and church contributions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 403-426.
    2. Peters, Jörg & Langbein, Jörg & Roberts, Gareth, 2016. "Policy evaluation, randomized controlled trials, and external validity—A systematic review," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 51-54.
    3. Vincenzo Galasso & Tommaso Nannicini & Salvatore Nunnari, 2020. "Positive Spillovers from Negative Campaigning," Working Papers 664, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    4. Pedro Robalo, 2021. "Political Mobilization in the Laboratory: The Role of Norms and Communication," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(1), pages 1-40, March.
    5. Ortega, Daniel & Scartascini, Carlos, 2020. "Don’t blame the messenger. The Delivery method of a message matters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 286-300.
    6. Barton, Jared & Castillo, Marco & Petrie, Ragan, 2016. "Negative campaigning, fundraising, and voter turnout: A field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 99-113.
    7. Daniel Ortega & Carlos Scartascini, 2015. "Don't Blame the Messenger: A Field Experiment on Delivery Methods for Increasing Tax Compliance," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 91741, Inter-American Development Bank.
    8. Ortega, Daniel & Scartascini, Carlos, 2015. "Don't Blame the Messenger: A Field Experiment on Delivery Methods for Increasing Tax Compliance," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 7284, Inter-American Development Bank.
    9. Enrico Cantoni & Vincent Pons, 2020. "Do Interactions with Candidates Increase Voter Support and Participation? Experimental Evidence from Italy," NBER Working Papers 27433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Kai Jäger, 2020. "When Do Campaign Effects Persist for Years? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 64(4), pages 836-851, October.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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