Strategic Campaign Communication: Evidence from 30,000 Candidate Manifestos

Caroline Le Pennec

2020-05

In representative democracy, individual candidates often run for parliamentary seats under a national party platform, which limits their ability to compete on policy issues at the local level.  I exploit a novel dataset of 30,000 candidate manifestos issued before the first and second rounds of nine French legislative elections to show that politicians strategically adjust their campaign communication to persuade voters who do not support their platform—not by moderating their policy positions but by advertising neutral non-policy issues instead. Doing so predicts better performance in office and may therefore provide voters with information that matters for representation.

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