The Parliamentary Candidate as Persuader: Evidence from randomized candidate-voter interactions (draft, September 2018).

Florian Foos

Davis

Photo: The Guardian

Despite a renewed focus on electoral persuasion and principal-agent problems in ground campaigns, the role of parliamentary candidates in persuading voters has received little attention. Candidates should be effective persuaders because they can control the message, and persuasion is a key skill required in being selected as a candidate. Nevertheless, robust causal evidence on parliamentary candidates’ abilities to inflhence opinion formation is rare. Drawing on two randomized field experiments, a telephone survey, and an extensive panel dataset of individual voting intentions collected by the UK Labour Party, I show that introduction letters and personal meetings with a parliamentary candidate affected voting intentions. Initially, one in ten voters switched their voting preferences in the desired direction after interacting with the candidate. Effects persisted for up to six months, but decayed over time. This study provides new insights into the short- and long-term effects of candidate-voter interactions during a general election campaign.

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Tabloid Boycott Decreases Euroscepticism (draft, November 2019)

Florian Foos and Daniel Bischof

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Photo credit: Stuart Wilks-Heeg

Are citizens’ attitudes towards EU-integration shaped by the tabloid media? The question whether public opinion can be a consequence, rather than a cause of media reports is difficult to answer because citizens self-select into media consumption. We use a quasi-experiment, the boycott of the most important Eurosceptic tabloid newspaper, the Sun, in Merseyside county as a consequence of the newspaper’s reporting on the 1989 Hillsborough soccer disaster – to identify the effects of the Sun boycott on attitudes towards leaving the EU. Using a difference-in-differences design and British Social Attitudes data spanning three decades, as well as official EU referendum results, we show that attitudes towards the EU got significantly more positive in Merseyside during the boycott. The results of this paper have important implications for our understanding of media effects on public opinion, and suggest that the tabloid media played a role in influencing attitudes towards leaving the EU.