The Parliamentary Candidate as Persuader: Evidence from randomized candidate-voter interactions (earlier draft, November 2017).

Florian Foos


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. While recent research shows that campaign volunteers can be ineffective at persuading voters, candidates should be better persuaders because persuasion is a key quality required to be selected as a candidate. Nevertheless, robust empirical evidence on candidates’ ability to influence opinion formation is rare. We know little about the duration of persuasion effects, and existing experiments involving candidates are restricted to low salience contexts. 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 affect voting intentions, while similar meetings with a party volunteer do not. Persuasion effects are non-negligible, last for up to six months, but decay over time. Leveraging the data collection routines of an election campaign, this study provides new insights into the short- and long-term effects of candidate-voter interactions in high salience elections.



Can the tabloid media create Eurosceptic attitudes? A quasi-experiment on media influence in England (early draft, March 2018)

Florian Foos and Daniel Bischof

Are changes in citizens’ attitudes towards EU-integration endogenous to campaigns by tabloid media outlets? The question to what extent public opinion is a consequence, rather than a cause of media reports is dicult to answer because citizens self-select into media consumption. We use a unique quasi-experiment in the United Kingdom – the widespread boycott of the most important right-wing tabloid newspaper, the Sun, in Merseyside county as a direct consequence of the Sun’s reporting on the 1989 Hillsborough soccer disaster - to identify the effects of reading the Sun on attitudes towards leaving the EU. Using a difference-in-differences design based on British Social Attitudes data spanning the years from 1983 to 1996, we show that this specific event caused a sharp drop in Sun readership in Merseyside. We also show that attitudes towards the EU got significantly more positive in Merseyside during the boycott, compared to attitudes of respondents in other English regions. We estimate that this effects amounts to around 11 percentage-points. The results of this paper have important implications for our understanding of media effects, and suggest that the tabloid media played a role in influencing attitudes towards leaving the EU.