Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

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

  • Author(s): Kalla, JL
  • Broockman, DE
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2017 American Political Science Association. 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 tenfold. 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.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View