‘Electoral Competition and the Voter’ by Shaun Bowler and Todd Donovan (2011) looked at three interesting questions related to voter’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. Specifically, they were looking at how campaign spending, in the form of campaign advertising and voter contacting, is a direct measure of how voters experience competition in the electoral domain. The questions they were asking were: what is the effect of electoral spending on voter perception of how close the election is, voter attention to campaign activity, and voter satisfaction with the election? This reading response will be focused on the latter question to understand the effect of competition, specifically political competition, on subjective satisfaction.
This article found that in regions where there was the most spending on campaigns, voters reported being less satisfied with their political voting options. This finding is consistent with findings from other related studies which show that people do not like to be exposed to politics. This finding reflects an interesting contract between a theory in psychology called the ‘mere exposure effect’. The mere exposure effect states that the more often a person sees something, the more they positively rate, or ‘like’, that object. The results of this study seem to suggest the opposite, that the more an individual was exposed to a political campaign, the less they like it. One possible reason for this may be that competition confounds the effects of the mere exposure effect. Since political campaigns reflect competition, constant exposure to competitive material may actually decrease people’s perception, or liking, of these campaign materials. Another possible reason is that if people do not like politics to begin with, they likely will become even more frustrated when seeing recurrent political advertisements. Another possible reason for this result comes from @salimsalimoff7648 who explained that “political rhetoric, wrapped under the umbrella of empty campaign promises, can erode our ability to trust each other” when explaining the article by Ryan Carlin and Gregory Love (2016). Using this as context, we can see that a possibility for why increased exposure to campaign material decreases candidate liking is that people may view political campaigns as empty promises, which in turn makes them more distrustful and upset with politicians.
An interesting question for future studies to address comes from Garcia’s (2013) article on the psychology of competition. Future studies could look at how individual and situational factors may affect campaign behavior and spending. In the article by Garcia, Garcia mentions the relevance of psychology to politics by noting that competitiveness among candidates would likely decrease with a higher number of candidates, stating that as the number of competitors increases, the motivation for competition and competitive attitudes decrease. This may be a relevant finding for the Bowler and Donovan study because a decreased number of competitors likely contributed to increased campaign spending and played a role in the results found.