The Comparative Study of Campaigns

Project Name:

The Comparative Study of Campaigns


Richard Johnston (PI)

Research Assistants: Alexandre Rivard, Sarah Lachance, Aaron Buffie, Spencer McKay


SSHRC, Humboldt Stiftung (Germany), German Longitudinal Election Study

Project Description:

Citizens profess to despise election campaigns, which they see as coarse, expensive, and unnecessarily protracted, and as sites for character assassination if not outright manipulation. The shorter their duration and the less money in play, the better. The view among academic students of campaigns is more benign. More intense campaigns bring out more voters. Negative claims are more truthful than positive ones. Campaigns are on balance, “enlightening,” so much so that they mainly enable the operation of long-term, “fundamental” considerations. Elections without campaigns would be far more random events than are elections with them.

Although most actual research seems to validate the benign view, the research has often been narrowly conceived and willfully myopic. I am building similarly-structured campaign-based survey data files from as many countries and elections as possible. This requires the development of common coding schemes out of what are now quite country-specific ones. The object will be to gauge the extent to which all campaigns activate similar considerations across all countries and from election to election within countries and, alternatively, the extent to electorates can be led to different places, according to how the event is framed.

Project Stage:

Data collection, data analysis, writing, building a website.

Recent outputs:

Campaign Effects. In Kai Arzheimer, Jocelyn Evans, and Michael Lewis-Beck, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Electoral Behaviour. London: Sage, 2017, pp. 709-732.

Vote compass in British Columbia: insights from and about published polls. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Policy 8:1 (January 2017): 97-109.

Activation of Fundamentals in German Campaigns.In Voters on the Move or on the Run? Information Processing and Vote Choice in a Complex World, eds. Bernard Weßels, Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Hans Rattinger, and Sigrid Roßteutscher. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 217-237. With Julia Partheymüller and Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck.

The Predictable Campaign: Theory and Evidence. Version presented at CPSA 2016 (Calgary) and revised version submitted for APSA 2018. 2018 version with Sarah Lachance (UBC).

How do campaigns shape candidate images: Dynamics of candidate traits in the 2005 and 2009 German Bundestag elections. Presented at the 2017 MPSA (Chicago) and APSA annual meetings (San Francisco) and at the Hertie School of Governance, November 23, 2017, Berlin. With Mona Krewel (Cornell) and Julia Partheymüller (Vienna, ex Essex).

Campaign Activation in German Elections: Evidence from 2005 and 2009. Presented to the 2012 Annual meeting of the European Political Science Association (Berlin) and the 2013 Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting (Chicago). With Julia Partheymüller.