Why bother campaigning?

In this newly published work in Electoral Studies, I (along with two colleagues: Dr. Maria Laura Sudulich of EUI Florence and Professor David Farrell of University College Dublin) asked whether candidates who spent more money were more likely to succeed at European Parliament (EP) elections.

While the ‘money matters’ idea is well established in campaign studies, the EP elections provide  a very challenging context: the media/public basically ignore EP campaigns, to the extent that they do think about it, they prefer to use it to bash the government, rather than elect good MEPs, and, finally, because of the preponderance of ‘list’ electoral systems, that  give candidates little chance to benefit from ‘personal’ votes.

To examine this topic, we used a survey of all EP candidates, which asked for an estimate of campaign expenditure, and which included a wide range of other questions. In terms of analysis, we sought to control for all possible confounding variables and investigated whether increases in expenditure corresponded to a greater likelihood of being elected for individual candidates. We found that it did (though only to a relatively small extent in terms of the increase in probability of being elected engendered by high spending).

My favourite part of this article was the analogy of the ‘Sinatra Inference’ that my co-author, Dr. Sudulich, developed. The idea is that you should test a hypothesis (i.e., that ‘money matters’) in a context where it is very unlikely to succeed (i.e., the ‘EP’ elections). If the hypothesis survives (it did) we conclude that it’s quite likely to be true, under the logic that ‘if I can make it there, I can make it, anywhere’.

One thought on “Why bother campaigning?

  1. Hasn’t this been proven already? It’s how the large parties stifle change isn’t it in that the calibre of people we need in politics can’t afford the campaign and would never get through the selection convention of a large party.

    What hope does an ‘ordinary’ person who can’t raise at least €200k have in being elected an MEP?
    No matter how you break it down: €1 from 200,000 people or €100 from 2,000 or €50 from 4,000 the task is impossible because without name recognition the policy side won’t even get off the ground.

    The real question should be how do we ensure money isn’t an object that prevents the calibre of candidates we need?

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