First Impressions - Lasting Impressions: The long-term effects of candidate contact on voting intentions (draft version, September 2017)

Florian Foos


Despite the bourgeoning literature on voter contact, the role of candidates in persuading voters has received little attention, beyond a focus on legislators' home styles. Findings from lab and survey experiments suggest that voters can quickly form impressions about candidates. However, field experimental evidence on candidates' ability to influence voters is rare, and the time frames of existing studies are limited. Drawing on two randomized field experiments, a telephone survey, and a unique panel dataset of individual voting intentions collected by the UK Labour Party, I study how introduction letters and personal meetings with a Parliamentary candidate affect voting intentions. Despite the presence of out-party loyalties, voters update their party preferences. 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 long-term effects of candidate contact in high salience elections.