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Political Campaigns and Open-Minded Thinking


Cindy D. Kam is assistant professor of political science, University of California–Davis, Davis, CA 95616.


This article argues that campaigns do more than shape the electoral choices that citizens make. Campaigns also encourage citizens to engage in open-minded thinking. Analyses of the Senate Election Study show that intense campaigns chip away at pro-incumbent biases, motivating citizens to acknowledge pros and cons regarding the candidates. These gains in open-minded thinking appear among both more- and less-educated citizens. Intense campaigns provide citizens with the motivation to engage in open-minded thinking regarding candidates for public office. As such, electoral campaigns, as recurring national and subnational conversations about politics, can fulfill an important social function by pulling citizens into open-minded thinking.