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Campaigning in Past Tense: How Candidate Background Alters Issue Agendas
Unformatted Document Text:  When political consultants and campaign managers develop a plan for their campaigns, they map out a budget, potential fund raising sources, a schedule for airing television advertisements and for sending direct mail pieces, their expectations for assistance from sympathetic interest groups, and their plan for getting out the vote on election day. But possibly the most important element of a campaign plan is the issue agenda. Campaign planners can choose to emphasize any number of issues. Of course, these planners want to emphasize issues that are most advantageous. Recent studies have examined what issues campaigns choose to emphasize. These studies have examined a number of factors that go into the decision making process for those who plan campaign messages. Some of these factors include the saliency of particular issues, and the demographic characteristics of a particular district. In particular, many of these studies have examined the influence of issue ownership, in which a campaign highlights the issues on which its party has a long standing advantage among voters. These studies have undoubtedly advanced our understanding of the origins of issue agendas. On the other hand, they have, almost universally, ignored an important influence on the issue emphases of political campaigns—the reputation of the candidates themselves. Sellers (1998) shows that campaigns benefit on election day when they emphasize issues on which their candidate has developed a positive reputation. Campaigns should, of course, want to emphasize advantageous issues, and thus, should be more likely to highlight issues on which their candidate has developed a positive reputation. This paper serves as an initial investigation into the effect of a candidate’s reputation on campaign issue agendas. I develop a measure of a candidate’s reputation, and test its effect on the issue agendas of political campaigns. I find that when candidates have developed a positive 1

Authors: Arbour, Brian.
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When political consultants and campaign managers develop a plan for their campaigns,
they map out a budget, potential fund raising sources, a schedule for airing television
advertisements and for sending direct mail pieces, their expectations for assistance from
sympathetic interest groups, and their plan for getting out the vote on election day. But possibly
the most important element of a campaign plan is the issue agenda. Campaign planners can
choose to emphasize any number of issues. Of course, these planners want to emphasize issues
that are most advantageous.
Recent studies have examined what issues campaigns choose to emphasize. These
studies have examined a number of factors that go into the decision making process for those
who plan campaign messages. Some of these factors include the saliency of particular issues, and
the demographic characteristics of a particular district. In particular, many of these studies have
examined the influence of issue ownership, in which a campaign highlights the issues on which
its party has a long standing advantage among voters.
These studies have undoubtedly advanced our understanding of the origins of issue
agendas. On the other hand, they have, almost universally, ignored an important influence on the
issue emphases of political campaigns—the reputation of the candidates themselves. Sellers
(1998) shows that campaigns benefit on election day when they emphasize issues on which their
candidate has developed a positive reputation. Campaigns should, of course, want to emphasize
advantageous issues, and thus, should be more likely to highlight issues on which their candidate
has developed a positive reputation.
This paper serves as an initial investigation into the effect of a candidate’s reputation on
campaign issue agendas. I develop a measure of a candidate’s reputation, and test its effect on
the issue agendas of political campaigns. I find that when candidates have developed a positive
1


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