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Author Topic: Could someone explain this to me?
Gaoics79
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I was thinking about money and elections. We take it for granted that you need money, and lots of it to win an election. This is true anywhere you go, whether it's in the United States or Canada or wherever.

This is partly common sense. Money buys you advertising, I suppose. It buys you publicity.

But I've never understood why it is important to such a degree that it is. Surely after you get a certain minimal level of publicity, you become subject to the law of diminishing returns. Are 8 Hillary Clinton ads really going to sway eight times as many voters as 1?

What else does money buy you that makes it so critical in winning elections? It can't be just a question of publicity and advertising, can it?

I mean I judge candidates the way I would suppose most people do: I watch their ads on TV, hear about them on the radio, see a billboard or two, and maybe watch a debate.

But it seems to me that pretty much all of the candidatees have this kind of basic minimum level of exposure.

Is it really just a question of quantity? Does the fact that Hillary can afford to run 12 ads to Obama's 7 make the difference and make her the front runner? (God knows it can't be her personality that's winning it for her)

If Obama suddenly had a billion dollars in his war chest, could he suddenly reverse things and clobber Hillary?

Is it really just how many times you can repeat your name in peoples' ears that wins the election?

Or am I missing some other huge factor. Surely there must be something else that money buys you that makes it such a powerful instrument in winning elections.

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Richard Dey
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You've got it in reverse perhaps? Maybe advertising buys the candidates?
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RickyB
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Well, getting a lot of money from a lot of people gets them invested in your win, unless they're the kind who donate to both sides. With the right people, that vested interest stretches far more than the dollars.

As for Hillary, painful as it is, she has thus far shown herself no less formidable as a candidate than Obama. Her health plan is better. I'd still vote for him in the primaries, but she's running a good, substance-driven (no, not that kind...) campaign.

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Well, getting a lot of money from a lot of people gets them invested in your win, unless they're the kind who donate to both sides. With the right people, that vested interest stretches far more than the dollars.
Yes, but unless that somehow translates into votes, it's meaningless. Even Donald Trump and Bill Gates only get one vote. And for all their money, they can't force a die-hard Bush supporter living in a trailer park in Kansas to vote for Hillary.

I'm trying to understand the mechanism of how you translate money into being elected.

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Busillis
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There's a book called Freakonomics with a chapter on this that I highly recommend. In summary, the analysis showed that there was, in general, a positive correlation between funding and victory. However, in case studies where the candidate provided the money out of their own pocket, rather than being given it, the relationship disappeared. Conclusion: the relationship is due to how many people are willing to give you money, not necessarily what you do with it.
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LoverOfJoy
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I think a big part of it IS quantity. Not that you're necessarily more likely to vote for someone you've seen 8 ads for instead of 6 but because any given ad won't be seen by most people. There need to be ads in all kinds of venues. Billboards, radio, tv (at many different hours and channels).

Plus, once you pass a certain barrier of money you start getting free advertising. I think this happened with Romney and Obama. They were suddenly seen as serious contenders and started showing up on Newsweek and Time magazine and the like with titles likes "Our First Mormon President" or "Our First Black President?"

Obviously it wasn't just money that got them cover stories but without the money they wouldn't have been considered serious enough for those other things to matter. I don't remember Alan Keyes being on the cover of many magazines.

If you can get yourself saturated in the media then everyone knows who you are and recognizes you as one of the leading candidates. Even many of the "mostly uninvolved" voters will know one or two of your tagline key stances on an issue or two.

But even once saturated you have to keep your momentum going. You don't want people to think, "Oh yeah, Obama. I remember hearing about him a while back. He was all over the news 6 months ago. Whatever happened to him?" So you have to keep plugging in more ads.

Not to mention, there's probably a lot of value in traveling around visiting various states. So you need to pay for transportation, coordinators, space, etc. You may only make one or two trips to a particular state so the more people you can pay to coordinate stops along the way can give you opportunities to meet more people and get remembered even more. That also leads to more free advertising. You can be assured that you'll be in the local papers if you actually show up to their home town or even a nearby town. You'll appear in the paper before, with some reporter listing some of your history and a few of your stances. You'll also reappear after the event as they report on what you said.

So having the money to travel to different states, get a bus, and rent out various spots to meet with the people and give speeches starts adding up when you consider all the people involved to make that run smoothly.

Obviously that has an upper limit much sooner than the advertising does. Especially when you consider that even once you are saturated in the media and you have enough money to keep yourself there until the election, you can bet that people will start putting up negative ads about you. So you'll need additional money to get response ads out there and maybe a negative ad or two about your opponent as well. This is all in addition to whatever you had lined up before.

Finally, I know candidates hire companies to make phone calls and remind people to vote. I don't have any idea what the cost of that is, but I'm sure that the more money you have the more calls you likely can have made. I have heard of people even getting busses out to retirement homes and things like that although I'm not sure how much of that is done on a party wide basis and how much is actually out of the specific candidates coffers.

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velcro
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This may be cynical, but I think a large portion of voters base their decision on name recognition, or fragments of tv ads.

The best way to get their vote is to saturate the media with your name and a catchy slogan. All that takes is money.

I think there is something to the fact that if you get 1 million people to donate , and your opponent only gets 500,000, you have a higher percentage of strong supporters, and you are likely to have more people vote for you. So the number of contributors matters. But it seems like people look at money, equating 1000 contributors of $2000 with 100,000 contributors of $20.

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tonylovern
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if i'm not mistaken, ross perot, spent a lot more on his campaign, than bush sr. did. and bush senior spent close to double, what bill clinton did.

i'll go with name recognition, if we had been hearing obama's name, and forming opinions of him, in the national news, for the last 15 years, we might very well have different polling results.

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Richard Dey
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Velcro:

I'm not questioning that "The best way to get their vote is to saturate the media with your name and a catchy slogan" or even that "All that takes is money," but what I'm saying is that the media saturates the airwaves with the names it thinks are catchy long before the candidate even decides to run.

Hillary was a star attraction from Whitewater onward in the conservative media, and a star on PBS radio from the day feminists discovered that she'd had a difficult childhood in a patriarchal household.

I think Tony's right too. A lot of those running for office are trading on name recognition that they already have. We are doing to politicans what the English have done to the royals: the media is reducing them to celebrity status -- the lowest form of humanity we may know by face, sometimes by name, and always by scandal.

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LoneSnark
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Freakanomics had it right. Money may sway a close election, but most elections are not close and therefore will not be swayed no matter how much money is thrown around.

Now, this was only the case beyond a minimum point: if you do not raise the minimum amount of money then no one will know your name and you will lose, no matter how likable you are as a candidate.

As such, campaign finance laws have made it more difficult to raise obsene quantities of money, which do not sway most elections anyway. But it has also made it more difficult for dark-horse candidates to raise the minimum needed to get seen. As such, these laws shift the balance of power from unknown candidates to incumbents... no wonder such laws pass so easily.

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Tristan
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I agree with those who have indicated that at least some part of the causation goes the other way around: the amount of money a candidate manages to raise is largely proportional to how many people want the candidate to win and how invested they are in his success. In addition to being useful in propagating the candidate's message, the money then convey gravitas based on other people (and the media) recognising that a lot of people support the candidate enough to invest cash that he may succeed in the election.

[ October 07, 2007, 05:21 AM: Message edited by: Tristan ]

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DaveS
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It goes the other way, too. Money lets a candidate "refine" the pitch and "target" voters. The campaigns with more money run huge back-room efforts to develop optimal marketing campaigns, and marketing wins elections these days. The message the candidate delivers is necessary, but not sufficient on its own.

I also agree that it's a real weakness when candidates (Perot, Romney) fund a campaign out of their own pocket, because it doesn't bind supporters to them. Corzine did the same thing in NJ, but it isn't clear to me whether it mattered, since he was so well-known already.

Contrary to all that, McCain's numbers seem to be rising since he gave up the high-gloss campaign style.

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LoneSnark
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^ All historical and statistical evidence to the contrary? I know it is a fun cliche to believe marketing wins elections, but the statistics say otherwise.
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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by LoneSnark:
^ All historical and statistical evidence to the contrary? I know it is a fun cliche to believe marketing wins elections, but the statistics say otherwise.

Realism'd say you're not entirely right. Marketing and election results don't have a direct, dollars-for-votes correlation, but there's no denying that in most elections, candidates who don't have the money to get a good PR campaign rolling during the primaries don't get past the primaries. Much like a cheesy cliched poker game, the guy who turns up with the most money isn't necessarily going to be the winner, but the guys who don't turn up with enough won't be allowed to sit at the big boys' table at all.
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Mynnion
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Until I took the "who is your best match for president" test I had not even heard about Kucinich or Gravel(my top two matches). The problem with the system is you have to be seen as a serious contender to raise funds and get news time. Without the money it is hard to become well known. You aren't invited to the debates, etc. What we end up with is a system that can be bought either by money or celebrity.

If Obama was not an American of partially African origin would we even know his name?


I did fail to mention that the internet may act as an equalizer. Stay tuned for the new SPAM wars. I am sure that political parties will find a way to dominate our computers as the elections near.

[ October 08, 2007, 11:44 AM: Message edited by: Mynnion ]

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Dave at Work
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Jasonr,

I haven't read the entire thread yet, but LoverofJoy seems to have hit the two points that had popped into my mind. The money essentially pays for marketing and "administrative" costs.

I am not in marketing, but I do know that the top market shares in a given market are often secured and maintained by massive marketing budgets, at least in things that consumers buy directly. They aren't just putting out one advertisement at a time. rather they are putting out many complementary advertisements which will reach as much of the target demographic as possible. Coke and Pepsi for example are the two highest market share soft drink companies, not because they produce the best products but because they are the most widely known and most widely available.

I strongly suspect that spending more on advertising can translate into more people being aware of a candidate the candidates position on key issues.

Obviously the more active a politician's campaign is the more people are needed to help and the more consumables will be consumed. Many of those people will be volunteers, but some will be paid. Some of those consumables might be in the form of flyers, posters, bumper stickers and other marketing related material, while others like rent, electricity, fuel, office supplies, and the like will go up with the number and size of local offices goes up.

Well anyways that is my two cents on the subject.

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Richard Dey
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Yes, and my question remains, what is the difference between 'media' and 'advertising'?
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Wayward Son
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You have to pay for "advertising." [Smile]
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