HOW DO VOTERS RESPOND TO DIFFERENT TONES OF THE ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial
Vincenzo Galasso Tommaso Nannicini*
The experiment in a nutshell
We study the causal impact of positive and negative campaigning on electoral outcomes. To do this, we ran a large scale field experiment during the 2015 electoral race for mayor in Cava de’ Tirreni (a midsize town in the south of Italy). Our randomized treatments consisted of positive and negative canvassing, done by a campaign team of twenty young supporters of one of the candidates (Armando Lamberti). These volunteers tried to engage in personal interaction with eligible voters, by knocking on their apartments’ door, and distributed electoral material, either personally in the hands of the eligible voters or in their mailboxes. The electoral material consisted of a flyer and a hanger with either a positive or negative message.
The informational treatment was administered as part of the opponent’s actual campaign and covers the entire voting population.
The city was divided randomly into three areas:
- in the first area, volunteers canvassed the eligible voters with negative campaigning
- in the second area, volunteers canvassed the eligible voters with positive campaigning
- in the third area, eligible voters were not canvassed
The incumbent provided the information for the negative and positive messages and we let him choose among different alternative messages.
Two surveys were administered before and after the treatment to a subsample of eligible voters. They capture individual voters’ beliefs about valence and ideology with respect to the main candidates, and self-reported voting outcomes.
Text of the First Survey
Pictures of the Volunteers
Instruction to the Volunteers
Text of the Second Survey
Both surveys were realized by IPR Feedback