Campaign Effects and the Elusive Swing Voter in Modern Machine Politics

Ken Greene published “Campaign Effects and the Elusive Swing Voter in Modern Machine Politics” in Comparative Political Studies.

Abstract: Are vote-choice buying attempts successful? Much research across the social sciences argues that political machines expertly turn citizens into clients, undermining core aspects of democracy. Using insights from behavioral theories of vote choice, I argue that standard partisan campaigns can diminish vote-choice buying’s efficiency. Machines face a targeting problem: Local brokers identify good clients using long-term markers but then campaigns shift many citizens’ vote-relevant attitudes in ways that brokers cannot detect, leading to targeting errors. Vote-choice buying remains effective on recipients who are unmoved by the campaigns, but this group is small where campaigns are influential. Tests using panel surveys from Mexico’s 2000 and 2012 elections measure vote-buying attempts with direct questions and list experiments, employ various measures of campaign influence, and rely on new and existing estimation techniques. The findings yield a more optimistic view of the quality of elections in new democracies than current literature implies.