Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments

166 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2017 Last revised: 19 Oct 2017

Joshua Kalla

University of California, Berkeley, Students

David E. Broockman

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: September 25, 2017

Abstract

Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact 10-fold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately — although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

Suggested Citation

Kalla, Joshua and Broockman, David E., The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments (September 25, 2017). Forthcoming, American Political Science Review; Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 17-65. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3042867

Joshua Kalla

University of California, Berkeley, Students ( email )

525 F. Haas School of Business
Berkeley, CA
United States

David Broockman (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
3,000
Rank
2,920
Abstract Views
12,861