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What does "Do campaigns matter?" mean?

Bafumi, Joseph; Gelman, Andrew E.; Park, David K.

Scholars disagree over the extent to which presidential campaigns activate predispositions in voters or create vote preferences that could not be predicted. When campaign related information flows activate predispositions, election results are largely predetermined given balanced resources. They can be accurately forecast well before a campaign has run its course. Alternatively, campaigns may change vote outcomes beyond forcing predispositions to some equilibrium level. We find most evidence for the former: opinion poll data are consistent with Presidential campaigns activating predispositions, with fundamental variables increasing in importance as a presidential election draws near.

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March 12, 2010
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