Do Campaigns Matter?

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    • 00:00


    • 00:10

      KEN GOLDSTEIN: Hi, name's Ken Goldstein.I'm a professor in the department of politicsat University of San Francisco, and I'mexcited to be talking to folks about campaigns and elections,with a real focus on how some of the geeky stuffin political science or communication researchis actually used by campaigns.

    • 00:30

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: In my career, I've tried to blend theory and practice,and as will quickly become clear in these videos,I'm definitely a geek but have had some experienceworking on campaigns, mostly working covering campaignsas a member of the news media.I spent most of my academic career--

    • 00:50

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: my scholarly career-- at the University of Wisconsin,and then in 2011 came to Washington DCwhen I took a leave of absence from UWto run a political consulting firm called the Campaign MediaAnalysis Group.And Campaign Media Analysis Group-- or CMAG--tracks political advertising, whichhad been the main area of focus in my teaching and research

    • 01:13

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: at the University of Wisconsin for many years.So it was really fantastic opportunity for meto take everything I was learning and doingin the classroom, and learning in doing with research,and actually see how it applied or didn'tapply in the real world.CMAG was also an interesting companybecause we were guaranteed to work for the winningpresidential candidate, because we

    • 01:35

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: worked for both presidential candidates.We're one of the few political consultingfirms that was bipartisan or nonpartisan,and we worked for both the Obama campaign and the Romneycampaign.So I got to have a bit of an inside view alsoon many of the decisions that were made by the campaign whenit came to TV advertising.And after the election, when I decided

    • 01:56

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: to return to the classroom, that was really great for mebecause I was able to take a lot of the lessonsI learned from seeing real people do it in real lifeand try and translate that into my researchand into my teaching.And I hope I can convey some of that in the timeI have with you here today talkingabout a couple different topics when it comes to campaigns.

    • 02:23

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: The fundamental question when you're studying campaigns,or you're doing campaigns, is, well, does any of itactually matter?And at first blush that might seemlike a pretty dopey question, especially when one looksat the massive amounts of money thatare spent on our political campaigns.And that amount of money goes up every single year.

    • 02:47

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: And in 2012 there was almost $7 billion spenton political campaigns in the United States.And that number will surely go over 9 billion,and perhaps even approach 10 billionas we head towards 2016.So what does all that money get spent on?

    • 03:10

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: Well it gets spent to raise money,and then gets spent to raise more money.It gets spent to hire lawyers that tell you that you'reraising the money correctly.It gets spent to conduct research on electionsand do polls.It gets spent to do research on your own candidate.It gets spent to do research on the other candidate.

    • 03:30

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: You use the need to develop messages, to create messages,to create television advertisements,to pursue free media strategies where you'retrying to get the news media to cover you,to pursue paid media strategies when you're going outand you're buying tons of political advertising time,chiefly on local television.

    • 03:52

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: And it's used to try and-- in short-- gainand avoid one side having advantage in communicationflows or message flows.So massive amounts of money spent-- $7, $8 billion in 2012.It's going to be $9 or $10 billion in 2016.

    • 04:13

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: They're doing all these things, but again does it reallymatter?Now certainly the media assumes that it matters.And there are a whole bevy of television reporters and cablenews channels and websites that speak on the minute-- who's

    • 04:34

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: winning the minute, who's winning the hour-- as theyobsessively cover all the things that go on in campaigns.But there's actually a disconnectbetween what the media say and what scholars say.So scholars basically think that all this campaign stuff,it's sort of a fantasy world.And it's all drama.

    • 04:57

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: And that campaigns actually don't have much of an impact.Now why do they say that?And let me be clear here, I'm a geek, I'm a scholar,I'm a professor.I certainly believe in lots of the fundamentals

    • 05:17

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: that these people assume.But to give you a little heads up of where I'm going,I'm going to take those fundamentalsand not suggest that campaigns have no effect.But let's look at why political scientists, social scientists,tend to be very, very skeptical that the millionsand billions of dollars and all these things that campaigns do

    • 05:38

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: have any effect whatsoever.And the bedrock theoretical, empirical waythat political scientists look at campaignsis through the concept of party identification.And it always sounds a little bit obvious,and actually a little bit embarrassingwhen you have to get up in front and lecture peopleor lecture students, and tell themwhat the main finding of American political scientists

    • 05:59

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: is.And you know what the main findingof American political scientists is?Well it's Democrats vote for Democrats,and Republicans vote for Republicans,and Independents vote for the winner.Well how do we make that a little bit smarter?What that's saying is that long term partisan attachmentsdrive people's attitudes, and drive people's voting patterns.

    • 06:22

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: So it's not that someone sits down and goes,you know, I like Obama.He's a Democrat so I must be a Democrat.The causality is going in the other direction,where someone is a Democrat, theysee that Obama's a Democrat, and then say, OK, I must like him.Or the other side, I'm a Republican.He's a Democrat.So I don't like him.

    • 06:42

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: And partisan attachments certainly can change,but they're thought to change at a very slow pace, if at all.And basically, one is socialized fairly early on in life.Often one tends to be the partisanship of one's parents.And those partisan attachments tend to endure over time.

    • 07:05

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: So the distribution of party identification in the country,in a state, in a congressional district,can explain a lot about what's going on in elections.Now of course, yeah we have that obvious Democratsvote for Democrats, Republicans vote for Republicans.But it depends what percentage of Democrats votefor Democrats.Yeah, Democrats are going to vote for Democrats,

    • 07:27

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: but it matters whether it's 88% of Democratsvoting for the Democrat or 92% of Democratsvoting for the Democrat.It also matters what turnout's going to be.Yeah, Republicans are going to vote for the Republican.But are Republicans going to actually come out to vote?But again, scholars tend to thinkthat loyalty-- what percentage of Democrats

    • 07:49

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: vote for the Democrat, what percentage of Republicansvote for the Republican-- turnout--what percentage of each vote-- and what independents doaren't driven by the campaign.They're mostly driven by the nature of the times.And we could make it a lot more complicated,but it's basically saying that people makeevaluations of the situation.

    • 08:10

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: They decide who's in control-- if there'sa Democratic president then the Democrats are control.They look around.How's the economy doing, what's America's place in the world?If it's OK they reward that incumbentand that incumbent party.If it's not OK they punish that incompetent or that incumbentparty.So we've got two reasons why political scientists don't

    • 08:33

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: think the campaign should matter.One, there's these long term partisan attachmentsthat aren't going to be influenced by the campaign.Two, there's the nature of the times,the state of the economy, the state of the world.That's not going to be influenced by the campaign.And even more so-- and even worseif you're someone who's studying campaigns--it's the notion that OK, even if there's a little bit that's not

    • 08:56

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: explained by those fundamental factors of party identificationand the nature of the times, even if you thinkthe campaign does matter, campaign effectswill tend to cancel each other out.That it's sort of the equivalent of the First World War, right?Both sides employing massive firepowerbut nothing actually moving.Sort of trench warfare.So you have this situation where political scientists don't

    • 09:22

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: think that it matters at all.And they say really, nothing matters.It's these fundamental factors.And then you have these journalists whosay that everything matters.And look at Politico, and you look at CNN,and you look at Fox, and they're dissecting and talkingabout every second of the campaign.

    • 09:47

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: What's really a better way to look at it?Why should we study campaigns?Why should we do campaigns?Why spend the money?Ultimately, what is the impact of campaigns?Well going to sound sort of obvious,but I think we just need to take a step back.And we have to set our sights, and wehave to set our standards, in an accurate way.

    • 10:09

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: Meaning, campaigns don't explain the entire outcome.Campaigns don't explain most of the outcomes.Campaigns probably don't even explain 5 or 10 percentagepoints.But-- and if you're a football fan--even if the campaign and all those fundamental factorsget you to the one or two-- if the fundamental factors get you

    • 10:29

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: to the one or two yard line, well whatgets you over the goal line?And it's another way of saying that to correctly understandthe impact of the campaign is not to look for massive effectsand to obsessively cover every part of campaign,but understand that campaigns matter at the margin.

    • 10:50

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: Also important is to understand what campaigns are actuallytrying to do.Sometimes people sit back and go,well they're failing at doing that.Well if they're not trying to do that,then you can't say they failed at doing that.And last, there's all sorts of different metricsthat are used in the campaigns.And folks-- our baseball fans or any sports fans

    • 11:13

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: now-- Moneyball and analytics are big in sports.And Moneyball and analytics are big in politics as well.And certainly Moneyball is really usefulin baseball, but just because a team uses all these advancedanalytics doesn't mean that they fired all their scouts, right?

    • 11:34

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: They still use both.And the geeks who are doing the metrics understandthe difference between a ball and a strike,understand the difference between a double and a triple.And sometimes people who are studying campaigns and usinganalytics in their analysis don't understand well enough

    • 11:56

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: the metrics and the meaningful metricsthat are used in campaigns.So absolutely, the fundamental factorsare the chief drivers of elections.Distribution of party identification and the nature

    • 12:18

      KEN GOLDSTEIN [continued]: of the times.But campaigns can and do matter at the margin.And if you don't think campaigns can matter at the margin,just ask Al Gore.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Do Campaigns Matter?

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Professor Ken Goldstein asks if political campaigns and the money spent on elections effectively influence voter decision making. He discusses academic arguments and real-world research to present varying points of view.

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Do Campaigns Matter?

Professor Ken Goldstein asks if political campaigns and the money spent on elections effectively influence voter decision making. He discusses academic arguments and real-world research to present varying points of view.

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