To Moderate, Or Not to Moderate: Strategic Domain Sharing by Congressional Campaigns

55 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2022 Last revised: 6 Jul 2023

See all articles by Maggie Macdonald

Maggie Macdonald

Center for Social Media & Politics

Megan A. Brown

Center for Social Media and Politics - NYU

Joshua A. Tucker

New York University (NYU)

Jonathan Nagler

NYU - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Date Written: April 5, 2022

Abstract

We test whether candidates move to the extremes before a primary but then return to the center for the general election to appeal to the different preferences of each electorate. Incumbents are now more vulnerable to primary challenges than ever as social media offers a viable pathway for fundraising and messaging for challengers, while homogeneity of districts has reduced general election competitiveness. To assess candidates' ideological trajectories, we estimate the messaging ideology of 2020 congressional campaigns before and after their primaries, using a novel homophily-based measure of domains shared on Twitter. This method provides temporally granular data to observe changes in communication within a single election campaign cycle. We find that incumbents in safe seats moved towards the extreme before their primaries and back towards the center for the general election, but only when threatened by a well-funded primary challenge.

Keywords: Campaigns, Elections, Congress, Twitter, Ideology

Suggested Citation

Macdonald, Maggie and Brown, Megan and Tucker, Joshua Aaron and Nagler, Jonathan, To Moderate, Or Not to Moderate: Strategic Domain Sharing by Congressional Campaigns (April 5, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4076225 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4076225

Maggie Macdonald (Contact Author)

Center for Social Media & Politics ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Megan Brown

Center for Social Media and Politics - NYU ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Joshua Aaron Tucker

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Jonathan Nagler

NYU - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

Dept of Politics - 2nd floor
19 W. 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

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