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Stump Speeches and Road Trips: The Impact of State Campaign Appearances in Presidential Elections

Jeffrey S. Hilla1, Elaine Rodriqueza2 and Amanda E. Woodena3

a1 Northeastern Illinois University

a2 New Mexico Highlands University

a3 Bucknell University

Abstract

Travel, stump speeches, and pressing-the-flesh make up a large part of any presidential electoral campaign. Obviously, candidates feel that their appearances are important, as they make hundreds of appearances between Labor Day and Election Day. But are they right? Well over 100 million people cast ballots in November, but only the tiniest fraction of voters meets or catches a glimpse of either of the candidates. Do candidate appearances and contact sway voters in some way? In this article, we use changes in weekly state tracking polls to determine the impact of candidate appearances in battleground and non-battleground states. Using polling data from the 2000, 2004, and 2008 elections, we find that campaign appearances can change a candidate's polling percentages, and that the impact varies by candidate and location (battleground state, safe Democratic state, or safe Republican state). We also find that the selection of a vice-presidential candidate is important, because of this candidate's ability to campaign effectively.

Jeffrey S. Hill is an associate professor of political science at Northeastern Illinois University. His work on American politics and public administration has appeared in several journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, and the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization. His work on program assessment has appeared in the Journal of Political Science Education and APSA's volume on Assessment in Political Science. He can be reached at j-hill@neiu.edu.

Elaine Rodriquez is an associate professor of political science at New Mexico Highlands University. She studies Latino Politics, immigration, and political behavior. She recently published The National Voter Registration Act: Impact and Implications for Latino and Non-Latino Communities. She can be reached at erodriquez@nmhu.edu.

Amanda E. Wooden is an assistant professor of environmental politics and policy in the environmental studies program at Bucknell University. Dr. Wooden studies public opinion, water politics, and environmental security in Central Asia and recently co-edited the volume The Politics of Transition in Central Asia & the Caucasus: Enduring Legacies and Emerging Challenges. She can be reached at amanda.wooden@bucknell.edu.

Footnotes

A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, September 3, 2005. We would like to thank Burt Loomis and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. We would also like to thank Daron Shaw and Polling Report, Inc., for graciously sharing their data with us. All errors and shortcomings are, of course, our own. Authors are arranged alphabetically; there is no senior author.

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