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 influence 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.


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

Florian Foos and Daniel Bischof

Photo credit: Stuart Wilks-Heeg

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.