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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Home Sweet Home? The Geographic Concentration of Campaigning in Flexible List PR Systems

Maximilien Cogels
Université catholique de Louvain
Maximilien Cogels
Université catholique de Louvain
Lieven De Winter
Université catholique de Louvain

When it comes to localness of campaigning, scholars often lack to distinguish two important aspects: the geographic representation of the candidates, and the geographic concentration of the campaign. All candidates have indeed a local origin, but this does not mean candidates campaign (only) where they come from. Both are strategically relevant in terms of electoral performance.
This paper focusses on this geographic concentration in terms of campaign. Indeed, it is not because the candidate is living in a specific electoral district that he or she cannot campaign in another one. Truly, a candidate can restrict its campaign to where he lives, but can also decide to focus on the whole constituency. This makes the geographical space in which the candidate may campaign rather big. Here the candidate has a choice in terms of where he or she will put all his or her campaigning efforts, where he or she will be pursuing his or her personal vote. In fact, little evidence is known about the candidates’ strategies when it comes to PR systems (André & Depauw, 2019). The geographic extent of the campaigning of a candidate is an important composite for the campaigning strategy, and therefore personal performance as a whole. By going too broadly, he or she could lose more locally concentrated votes, but by leading a too concentrated campaign, he or she could not be able to convince enough voters and fail to be elected. This is even more important knowing that voters seems to vote more easily for candidates who they know directly. The ability to have personal contact seems to matter (André, Wauters, & Pilet, 2012; Bruce, Ferejohn, & Morris, 1997; Coleman, 2005). Hence, “where candidates seek to court personal votes may be as important as the extent of their efforts in this regard” (André & Depauw, 2019, p. 206).
Due to the lack of empirical evidence this paper aims at testing what the strategy of the candidate is, and which strategy is more likely to pay off. Consequently, do the candidates stay close to their own electoral district, or do they cover the whole constituency? And is it better to lead a concentrated campaign or a wider campaign? Attracting many preference votes could mean for the candidate to go where the voters are, however the lack of a serious local campaign could mean that the local voters do not know the candidate as a local candidate, losing the geographical representativeness card.
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