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Keywords:

  • local campaigning;
  • voter choice;
  • ‘friends and neighbours voting’

Abstract

The impact of local campaigning on voter choice has been studied within the theme of mobilisation. Grassroots effort can attract votes efficiently, but campaign contact is (potentially) endogenous, so results showing positive effects could be flawed. Experimental solutions to this problem are possible, but could also have low external validity. Drawing on the electoral geography literature, this article suggests that endogeneity concerns can be addressed through so-called ‘friends and neighbours voting’. One source of endogeneity is that that candidates may tend to canvass those living close to their own homes, and those canvassed would be expected in any case to be prone to support local candidates. The problem of endogeneity is reframed and treated as an omitted variable bias. Using unique Irish data on the geographic location of the homes of candidates, as well as data on the location of the voters, the analysis confirms that canvassing has a positive impact on candidate choice independent of the effect of geographic distance. More importantly, these two variables interact. The results point to the relevance of the geographic dimension of electoral politics in driving the endogeneity bias in local campaigning studies.