Vote Choice Formation and Minimal Effects of TV Debates: Evidence from 61 Elections in 9 OECD Countries
NBER Working Paper No. 26572
We use 201,000 observations from repeated survey data in 61 elections and 9 OECD countries since 1952 to study the formation of vote choices and policy preferences in the electoral season and assess how TV debates contribute to this process. We find that the share of voters who state a pre-election vote intention corresponding to their final vote choice increases by 15 percentage points in the two months preceding the election. Changes in individual vote choices mostly result from changes in beliefs on competing candidates and in issue salience, and they generate aggregate shifts in predicted vote shares. Instead, policy preferences remain remarkably stable over time. We use an event study to estimate the impact of TV debates, and find that they affect significantly neither individual vote choice and preference formation nor aggregate vote shares. This suggests that information continuously received by voters exerts more influence on their behavior.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26572