Do Political Campaigns Matter? Campaign Effects in Elections and Referendums

By David M. Farrell; Rudiger Schmitt-Beck | Go to book overview

4

Campaign effects and media monopoly

The 1994 and 1998 parliamentary elections in Hungary

Marina Popescu and Gábor Tóka

This chapter explores some interactions between campaign resources, campaign style and campaign impact in a new democracy. The variable of interest is the campaigners' use of a peculiar opportunity structure that authoritarian legacies create. The 1994 and 1998 Hungarian elections showed much similarity in relevant aspects of this opportunity structure. Hence they can be treated as a natural laboratory to study variance in campaign impact while keeping a host of cultural, social and political variables constant.

Some features of these campaigns were typical for a large number of late democratizing countries. First, new democracies often show a dearth of necessary resources for the deployment of most pre- and post-Fordist-or 'pre-and postmodern', 'stage I' and 'stage III'-campaign technologies, in the case of everything from personal canvassing to direct mail. 1 In the absence of long-established party loyalties, it may be extremely hard to tell supporters, swing voters and committed opponents apart. Therefore, get-out-the-vote campaigns may easily backfire. As party organizations are often inchoate, personal contact with the voters is difficult to establish, and rallies rarely attract substantial audiences. Parties are often many and their ideologies shifting, hence it is unusually hard to calculate vote-maximizing party locations on the relevant issues.

Second, in many post-authoritarian democracies public television is easily available for partisan use. Given various legacies of authoritarian rule, there is often monopolistic control of television broadcasts. New democracies are middle-or low-income countries, hence government-controlled electronic media may be the only mass media many citizens are exposed to. Spreading partisan propaganda as supposedly non-partisan information programmes on a large and publicly financed provider of political information often turns into a major political issue, with intriguing implications for campaigns.

Third, the weakness of party loyalties leaves a lot of space for campaign influence. Defeat may mean the total disappearance of a party from electoral competition, and victory seems to be within reach for quite a few competitors. Consequently, party leaders are pushed to make full use of whatever tools of campaigning they can rely on.

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