The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments

Source: Joshua Kalla, David E. Broockman, American Political Science Review – Forthcoming, September 25, 2017

From the abstract:
Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact 10-fold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately — although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

Most Campaign Outreach Has Zero Effect on Voters
Source: Emma Green, The Atlantic, September 30, 2017

A new paper finds that direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, and television ads almost never change people’s minds. What does this mean for American democracy?

A massive new study reviews the evidence on whether campaigning works. The answer’s bleak.
Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, September 28, 2017

In general elections, campaigns’ attempts to win swing voters appear to not work at all.