Electoral campaigns are the foundation of democratic governance; yet scholarship on the content of campaign communications remains underdeveloped. In this paper, we advance research on U.S. congressional campaigns by integrating and extending extant theories of campaign communication. We test the resulting predictions with a novel dataset based on candidate Web sites over three election cycles. Unlike television advertisements or newspaper coverage, Web sites provide an unmediated, holistic, and representative portrait of campaigns. We find that incumbents and challengers differ across a broad range of behavior that reflects varying attitudes toward risk, that incumbents strategies depend on the competitiveness of the race, and that candidates link negative campaigning to other aspects of their rhetorical strategies. Our efforts provide researchers with a basis for moving toward a more complete understanding of congressional campaigns.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations