Do Campaigns Help Voters Learn? A Cross-National Analysis
Recent empirical studies on American elections suggest that campaigns provide voters with the necessary information to make reasoned voting decisions. Specifically, campaigns help voters learn about the electoral relevance of ‘fundamental variables’, such as the economy and party stances, that have been consistently shown to predict electoral outcomes. Do these findings generalize beyond the American case? This article uses cross-national survey data in order to subject this thesis to a more comprehensive test. The analysis provides further support for the hypothesis that campaigns ‘enlighten’ voters as the election draws near. Moreover, the article shows that some voters learn more from campaigns than others. Campaign effects are more pronounced among individuals with low political sophistication and those living in party list systems. Implications for future research are explored, suggesting a ripe research agenda using under-tapped cross-national data.
a An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2001 meeting of the Society for Political Methodology, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga. I owe gratitude to Martin Johnson, Ken Scheve, Randy Stevenson and the anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions. I also thank Ray Duch and Randy Stevenson for sharing their cleaned and pooled version of Eurobarometer data with me. The customary caveat regarding my responsibility for errors applies.