How Do Campaigns Shape Vote Choice? Multi-Country Evidence from 62 Elections and 56 TV Debates
152 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2019 Last revised: 7 Feb 2022
Date Written: December 2019
We use two-round survey data from 62 elections in ten countries since 1952 to study the formation of vote choices, beliefs, and policy preferences, and assess how televised debates contribute to this process. Our data include 253,000 observations. We compare the consistency between vote intention and vote choice of respondents surveyed at different points before, and then again after, the election, and show that 17% to 29% of voters make up their mind during the final two months of campaigns. Changes in vote choice are concomitant to shifts in issues voters find most important and in beliefs about candidates, and they generate sizeable swings in vote shares. In contrast, policy preferences remain remarkably stable throughout the campaign. Finally, we use an event study to estimate the impact of TV debates and do not find any effect on vote choice formation, suggesting that information continuously received by voters is more impactful.
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