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’.