Diffusion and Learning across Political Campaigns
44 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 20 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
Are campaigns for different offices isolated events, or do candidates observe and learn from each other? For example, when choosing which issues to emphasize, do candidates focus solely on their own strengths and their constituents’ desires, or do they emulate one another? The answers to these and other related questions have important implications for the genesis of the national policy agenda. To address these questions, we study the diffusion of issues across gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns in the general election of 2002. We find that candidates do learn, emulating other successful candidates, and that candidates learn more from copartisans and from those whose constituencies are ideologically similar. Moreover, we show that experimentation with new issues begins with risk-taking newcomers, followed by successful issues eventually spreading to the campaigns of entrenched incumbents. These results suggest that the national policy agenda is built from the bottom up, with new ideas attracting institutional support based on their proven electoral success.
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