Making Rallies Great Again: The Effects of Presidential Campaign Rallies on Voter Behavior, 2008-2016
46 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2020 Last revised: 14 Feb 2022
Date Written: October 2020
Populism has surged around the world in recent decades. One campaign activity that may be especially important for populist leaders is holding large rallies to gain unmediated support from "the people." In this paper, we explore whether populist leaders are particularly effective in gaining support via their rallies. We do this by studying the effect of campaign rallies held by Donald Trump and other U.S. Presidential candidates since 2008. To measure the short-run causal impact of rallies, we exploit the fact that some respondents in the CCES were surveyed a few days before a rally, while others were surveyed a few days afterwards. We find that Trump's rallies produced a short-lived increase in his support over Clinton (especially among leaning Republicans), intention to vote (especially among strong Republicans), and individual campaign contributions for him. We do not find consistent, robust effects for other candidates. In terms of channels, we find that local media coverage of all candidates increased around their rallies, suggesting that the quantity of media coverage alone does not explain the findings.
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