Selling to a Moving Target: Dynamic Marketing Effects in U.S. Presidential Elections

by Doug J. Chung & Lingling Zhang
 
 

Overview — Electing the President of the United States is a decision with deep and lasting global repercussions, yet predicting the likelihood of success of any presidential campaign has been an inexact science, at best. This paper examines political campaigns' use of marketing activities using a unique and comprehensive data set that covers the past three US presidential elections. Among the findings, a candidate's own advertising is more effective than outside (or PAC) advertising. Advertising and campaign appearances work more favorably towards Republican candidates. In contrast, field operations are more effective for Democratic candidates, primarily through get-out-the-vote efforts. These insights together lay a foundation for more effective allocation of campaign resources in future presidential elections.

Author Abstract

We examine the effects of various political campaign activities on voter preferences in the domain of U.S. Presidential elections. We construct a comprehensive data set that covers the three most recent elections, with detailed records of voter preferences at the state-week level over an election period. We include various types of the most frequently utilized marketing instruments: two forms of advertising-candidate's own and outside advertising, and two forms of personal selling-retail campaigning and field operations. Although effectiveness varies by instrument and party, among the significant effects we find that a candidate's own advertising is more effective than outside advertising, and that advertising and retail campaigning work more favorably towards Republican candidates. In contrast, we find field operations to be more effective for Democratic candidates, primarily through get-out-the-vote efforts. We do not find any between-party differences in the effectiveness of outside advertising. Lastly, we also find a moderate but statistically significant carryover effect of campaign activities, indicating the presence of dynamics of marketing efforts over time. Key words: multi-channel marketing, personal selling, advertising, political campaigns, dynamic panel data, instrumental variables.

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