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Campaign Spending and Voter Participation in State Legislative Elections

Authors


  • I wish to thank Trevor Williams for assistance in collecting the data used in this project. All data necessary for replicating the analysis are available upon request.

Direct correspondence to Robert E. Hogan, Department of Political Science, 240 Stubbs Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803 〈rhogan1@lsu.edu〉.

Abstract

Objective

Previous studies demonstrate that campaigns play an important role in mobilizing citizen participation in elections. The present analysis examines the effects of campaign spending on voter turnout in the state legislative setting where our knowledge of campaign effects is quite limited.

Method

In an examination of state legislative elections across 20 states over two election cycles, the analysis considers the influence of candidate spending on voter turnout.

Results

The findings demonstrate that campaign spending has a strong influence on voter participation; however, this effect is mitigated by contextual features. Legislative professionalism reduces the influence of spending, while the presence of a high-stimulus statewide election enhances it. In addition, challenger spending is more effective at stimulating participation than incumbent spending.

Conclusions

Higher levels of campaign spending increase voter participation in state legislative elections; however, these effects vary according to context. These findings have important implications for theories of participation in American democracy as well for normative issues concerning the role of money in elections.

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