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What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning

Author

Listed:
  • Jared Barton

    () (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Marco Castillo

    () (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Ragan Petrie

    () (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

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

Suggested Citation

  • Jared Barton & Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie, 2012. "What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning," Working Papers 1031, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1031
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Price, Michael K., 2008. "Fund-raising success and a solicitor's beauty capital: Do blondes raise more funds?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 351-354, September.
    2. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
    3. Stefano DellaVigna & Matthew Gentzkow, 2010. "Persuasion: Empirical Evidence," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 643-669, September.
    4. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2007. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1187-1234.
    5. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    6. Potters, Jan & Sloof, Randolph & van Winden, Frans, 1997. "Campaign expenditures, contributions and direct endorsements: The strategic use of information and money to influence voter behavior," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-31, February.
    7. Andrea Prat, 2002. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 999-1017.
    8. Alan S. Gerber & Dean Karlan & Daniel Bergan, 2009. "Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 35-52, April.
    9. Alan Gerber & Donald Green, 2000. "The effects of canvassing, direct mail, and telephone contact on voter turnout: A field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00248, The Field Experiments Website.
    10. David Stromberg, 2008. "How the Electoral College Influences Campaigns and Policy: The Probability of Being Florida," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 769-807, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Daniel Ortega & Carlos Scartascini, 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.

    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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