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Campaign Innovation on the Demand Side: Theory and Evidence from Europe
Unformatted Document Text:  ultimately from the political institutions of both countries (which, unlike the US, are parliamentary systems with much higher levels of party discipline in the legislature). The onetime director of a Conservative general election campaign says, for example: It’s important, also, that the systems in those countries are very different. In America you promote the individual candidates. Here you’re promoting ideas and policies instead. These institutional and legal constraints have an important effect on what approaches will be seen as likely to work when imported into a new campaign context – and on what approaches can even be attempted, given the constraints of the law. Insofar as campaigners reject borrowings on institutional or legal grounds, they reference concerns of efficiency: it may work there, but it wouldn’t (or couldn’t) work here, and therefore we’ll pass over it in developing our own campaigns. Campaign techniques may also be rejected on efficiency grounds that do not derive from resource or institutional constraints but that reflect the same underlying conclusion: this approach won’t work in my context. This reasoning will sometimes motivate the rejection of a technique one had originally embraced. For example, here is a former staffer at Conservative Central Office reflecting on that party’s use of opinion research conducted by Richard Wirthlin, who consulted for the party in the 1980s. This respondent said that, with the wisdom of hindsight, he thought the money committed to the Wirthlin polling was probably “not well spent. I don’t think the transferability of models that were based to a very great extent on [peculiarly] American assumptions about voters and voting behavior is really very great. But I did at the time – I was entirely sold on the Wirthlin research” and on implementing Wirthlin’s methods in the UK. This, too, is a line of reasoning that rejects the (continued) importation of a particular campaign technique on grounds of inefficiency. 11

Authors: Smith, Jennifer.
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ultimately from the political institutions of both countries (which, unlike the US, are
parliamentary systems with much higher levels of party discipline in the legislature). The
onetime director of a Conservative general election campaign says, for example:
It’s important, also, that the systems in those countries are very different. In America you
promote the individual candidates. Here you’re promoting ideas and policies instead.

These institutional and legal constraints have an important effect on what approaches will be
seen as likely to work when imported into a new campaign context – and on what approaches
can even be attempted, given the constraints of the law. Insofar as campaigners reject
borrowings on institutional or legal grounds, they reference concerns of efficiency: it may work
there, but it wouldn’t (or couldn’t) work here, and therefore we’ll pass over it in developing our
own campaigns.
Campaign techniques may also be rejected on efficiency grounds that do not derive from
resource or institutional constraints but that reflect the same underlying conclusion: this
approach won’t work in my context. This reasoning will sometimes motivate the rejection of a
technique one had originally embraced. For example, here is a former staffer at Conservative
Central Office reflecting on that party’s use of opinion research conducted by Richard Wirthlin,
who consulted for the party in the 1980s. This respondent said that, with the wisdom of
hindsight, he thought the money committed to the Wirthlin polling was probably “not well spent.
I don’t think the transferability of models that were based to a very great extent on [peculiarly]
American assumptions about voters and voting behavior is really very great. But I did at the
time – I was entirely sold on the Wirthlin research” and on implementing Wirthlin’s methods in
the UK. This, too, is a line of reasoning that rejects the (continued) importation of a particular
campaign technique on grounds of inefficiency.
11


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