Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Campaigning with Binary Incentives – Individual Campaign Strategies Under OLPR

Fri, September 1, 11:30am to 12:00pm, Hilton Union Square, Grand Ballroom


Campaigning with binary incentives – Individual campaign strategies under OLPR

In the family of proportional electoral systems, Finland makes a rare flower by combining a proportional formula and multimember districts with fully open lists and mandatory preferential voting. Open list proportional representation (OLPR) provides the Finnish electoral system with two levels of competition; a high degree of inter-party as well as intra-party competition. Alongside the constituency-based battles between parties, candidates within the same party compete over the seats that the party collectively will win. Candidates running for office hence have binary campaign incentives; try to maximize the collective vote-total of the party, as well as their personal share of the votes (von Schoultz, 2016).
The way in which these binary incentives is played out in campaign strategies of individual candidates is however not very well explored. In fact most research on professionalization and personalisation of election campaigning in Europe has so far focused on the party, rather than individual level (Gibson & Römmele, 2001; Strömbäck, 2009; Tenscher, Mykkänen, & Moring, 2012). Many scholars have concluded that transformations in the political and media environments of political actors have pushed parties to develop the style and character of political campaigning. Parties increasingly rely on professional expertise, sophisticated campaign techniques and digital presence for communication with the electorate (Lilleker, 2014; Negrine, 2008; Norris, 2000; Plasser & Plasser, 2002; Vliegenthart, 2012). Professionalization of election campaigning has thus been studied by examining strategies and activities when political parties execute election campaigns and communicate with the electorate but far less is known about the strategies used by individual politicians and how the strategies employed vary across groups of candidates.
Drawing on a unique dataset combining survey data on self-reported campaign strategy and financing from the Comparative Candidate Survey and register data on electoral success and personal background of candidates in the 2011 Finnish Parliamentary election we set out to analyse the campaign strategies employed by individual candidates under OLPR. Focus is on how campaign strategies and modes varies across four groups of candidates; incumbents, challengers, career-builders and top-up candidates (Arter 2009) and under control for their self-reported campaign focus (personal or party). More specifically this study explores how these different groups of candidates employ (1) campaign activities such as canvassing, participation in public debates, the use of Internet, traditional and mediated communication via newspapers, radio and TV as well as participation in meetings with different groups of people such as party members, private companies and different organizations and (2) campaign strategies focusing on traditional campaign communication, mediated communication, digital presence and use of professional consultants in the election campaign. The purpose of this study is thus to disentangle how campaign incentives influences the professionalization and personalisation in election campaigning across different types of candidates.

Arter, D (2009). Money and Votes: The Cost of Election for First-Time Finnish MPs. Politiikka 51(1), 17–33.
Gibson, R., & Römmele, A. (2001). Changing campaign communications: a party-centered theory of professionalized campaigning. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 6(4), 31-43.
Lilleker, D. (2014). Political communication and cognition. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Negrine, R. M. (2008). The transformation of political communication : continuities and changes in media and politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Norris, P. (2000). A virtuous circle: Political communications in postindustrial societies: Cambridge Univ Press.
Plasser, F., & Plasser, G. (2002). Global political campaigning : a worldwide analysis of campaign professionals and their practices. Westport: Praeger.
von Schoultz, Å. (2016). Passing through the eye of the needle – Individual electoral success in Finnish parliamentary elections. I Raunio, T. & Karvonen, L. (eds.). The Changing Balance of Political Power in Finland. Santerus Academic Press.
Strömbäck, j. (2009). Selective Professionalisation of Political Campaigning: A Test of the Party-Centered Theory of Professionalised Campaigning in the Context of the 2006 Swedish Election. Political Studies, 57, 95-116.
Tenscher, J., Mykkänen, J., & Moring, T. (2012). Modes of Professional Campaigning A Four-Country Comparison in the European Parliamentary Elections, 2009. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 17(2), 145-168.
Vliegenthart, R. (2012). The professionalization of political communication? a longitudinal analysis of Dutch election campaign posters. American Behavioral Scientist, 56(2), 135-150.