Election Campaigns as Information Campaigns: Who Learns What and Does It Matter?

“Election Campaigns as Information Campaigns: Who Learns What and Does It Matter?” (with Richard Nadeau, Andre Blais and Elisabeth Gidengil) Political Communication 25(3), 229-248.

During election campaigns political parties compete to inform voters about their leaders, the issues, and where they stand on these issues. In that sense, election campaigns can be viewed as a particular kind of information campaign. Democratic theory supposes that participatory democracies are better served by an informed electorate than an uninformed one. But do all voters make equal information gains during campaigns? Why do some people make more information gains than others? And does the acquisition of campaign information have any impact on vote intentions? Combining insights from political science research, communications theory, and social psychology, we develop specific hypotheses about these campaign information dynamics. These hypotheses are tested with data from the 1997 Canadian Election Study, which includes a rolling cross-national campaign component, a post-election component, and a media content analysis. The results show that some people do make more information gains than others; campaigns produce a knowledge gap. Moreover, the intensity of media signals on different issues has an important impact on who receives what information, and information gains have a significant impact on vote intentions.

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