The Parliamentary Candidate as Persuader: Evidence from randomized candidate-voter interactions (draft, September 2018).

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. Candidates should be effective persuaders because they can control the message, and persuasion is a key skill required in being selected as a candidate. Nevertheless, robust causal evidence on parliamentary candidates’ abilities to inflhence opinion formation is rare. 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 affected voting intentions. Initially, one in ten voters switched their voting preferences in the desired direction after interacting with the candidate. Effects persisted for up to six months, but decayed over time. This study provides new insights into the short- and long-term effects of candidate-voter interactions during a general election campaign.


Tabloid Media Campaigns and Public Opinion: Quasi-Experimental Evidence on Euroscepticism in England (draft, March 2021)

Florian Foos and Daniel Bischof

Photo credit: Stuart Wilks-Heeg

Whether powerful media outlets have consequential effects on public opinion has been at the heart of theoretical and empirical discussions about the media's role in political life. The effects of media campaigns are difficult to study because citizens self-select into media consumption. Using a quasi-experiment -- the 30-years boycott of the most important Eurosceptic tabloid newspaper, ``The Sun'', in Merseyside caused by the Hillsborough soccer disaster -- we identify the effects of "The Sun" boycott on attitudes towards leaving the EU. Difference-in-differences designs leveraging public opinion data spanning three decades, supplemented by official referendum results, show that the boycott caused EU attitudes to become more positive in treated areas. This effect is driven by cohorts socialised under the boycott, and by working class voters who stopped reading "The Sun". Our findings have implications for our understanding of public opinion, media influence, and ways to counter such influence, in contemporary democracies.