The Mobilization of Core Supporters: Campaigns, Turnout, and Electoral Composition in United States Presidential Elections


  • The authors are grateful to Daron Shaw for sharing his data and participants from Southern Illinois University's Political Science Work-in-Progress Seminar for their helpful comments. This article was prepared for presentation at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. All errors remain our responsibility.

Thomas M. Holbrook is professor of political science, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, PO Box 413, 3210 N. Maryland Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53201 ( Scott D. McClurg is assistant professor of political science, Southern Illinois University, Mailcode 4501, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501 (


Our objective is to investigate the relationship between presidential campaign activities and political mobilization in the states, with specific focus on the mobilization of core constituents. Using data on presidential campaign visits, presidential campaign media purchases, and party transfers to the states, we highlight some interesting mobilization patterns. First, voter turnout is positively influenced by presidential campaigns, though not by all campaign activities. Second, there is some evidence that campaigns have direct effects on the participation of core partisan groups. Finally, the ability of parties to mobilize their core groups has a strong effect on state electoral success that exists over and above the direct effect of campaign activity on electoral outcomes. All in all, we see the results as strong evidence that political mobilization in general and party transfers to the states in particular are an important component for understanding campaign effects in presidential elections.