“Does campaigning work and given the tremendous effort, is it worthwhile?” asks Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University.
“Many of these tactics – knocking on doors and big rallies – are as sentimental as they are strategic. There is no scientific proof that they work, but we can’t give them up.”…
In the early years after independence, it was considered unseemly for American presidential candidates to appear at political rallies, says Troy, whose most recent book is Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents.
“They would stand in dignified silence, awaiting the call.
“Though, coincidentally, they might need to take a trip where there might be adoring crowds to greet them.”…
The door-to-door canvass This traditional campaign practice is especially effective for local politicians. “The smaller the job, it’s the most effective way of speaking to constituents – what are your concerns? This is how I’m going to help you,” says McGill’s Troy.
It’s also a useful way of getting people to the polls. “And getting them excited. We live in such an anonymous society, people appreciate the personal touch.”…
Despite studies such as these, the effects of campaign tactics remain unknowable. “Some of what we see is in the realm of anthropology,” says Troy. “These are rituals that make people feel good, affirm loyalties and hark back to political traditions, rather than being strategic moves that are proven to work their magic on voters.”
Ultimately, campaigners have to try a bit of everything.
“There are enough examples of particular campaigns that made a difference here and there,” he says. “You just have to plunge in.”