Campaign field offices and voter mobilization in 2012.

Author:Weinschenk, Aaron C.
Position:Polls and Elections - Report

During the last several presidential elections, much attention has been paid to campaign field offices (Ball 2012; Keller 2012; Levendusky and Darr 2014; Masket 2009; Sinderbrand 2012). Indeed, Obama's impressive ground game during the 2008 election triggered an interest in understanding the role of field offices in presidential campaigns. Since the 2008 election, many interesting questions have developed surrounding campaign field offices. For example, how many field offices did each presidential campaign have? Where did the campaigns choose to locate field offices? What impact, if any, did field offices have on candidate vote share? These are important questions and all three of these have been investigated either by the media or academics interested in campaign effects. During the 2012 election, for example, a number of media outlets tracked the locations of Obama and Romney campaign offices across the United States. The disparity between Democratic and Republican field offices is something that also elicited a great deal of attention (Avion and Keller 2012; Ball 2012; Keller 2012; Masket 2012). Masket

(2009) provided a systematic analysis of the impact of field offices on candidate vote share in 2008 and found that Obama field offices increased the Democratic vote share by a small, but not inconsequential, amount (0.8% overall). Interestingly, Masket found that the effects of field offices were large enough to flip three battleground states from Republican to Democratic.

In a more recent analysis using Democratic field office data from 2004, 2008, and 2012, Levendusky and Darr (2014) examined the determinants of field office placement and the effects of field offices on candidate performance at the county level. Interestingly, Levendusky and Darr found that Democratic field offices increased Democratic vote share by about 1.04%. Sides and Vavreck (2013) also investigated the effects of field offices on Democratic vote share (focusing only on the 2012 election) and found that Obama's vote share was about three-tenths of a point higher in counties with one field office than in counties with no field office and about six-tenths of a point higher in counties where he had two or more offices. Interestingly, Sides and Vavreck found that Romney's field offices exerted a much smaller effect (and could not be estimated with as much statistical confidence). Given the goals of campaign field offices, it is not at all surprising that vote choice has been a dependent variable of great interest.

The impact of campaign field offices on turnout is something that has received fairly little attention to date. In their analysis of the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections, Levendusky and Darr (2014) did explore the impact of Democratic field offices on turnout. Their model indicated that turnout was about .44% higher in counties that had at least one Democratic field office. Because data on Republican field offices were not available prior to 2012, Levendusky and Darr focused only on the effects of Democratic field offices. They pointed out that their "results can only speak to the effects of Democratic offices, and we leave corresponding analysis of Republican effects (and questions about the relative effectiveness of these efforts between parties) for future work" (Levendusky and Darr 2014, 537). In this article, I build on Levendusky and Darr's turnout analysis by investigating the impact of Obama and Romney field offices on voter mobilization in 2012. Although many media reports suggested that field offices played an important role in voter mobilization (Jackson 2012; Sinderbrand 2012), there is no precise estimate of how much of an impact the Obama and Romney campaign field offices had on voter mobilization in 2012.

Field Offices and Voter Mobilization

The study of voter mobilization has a long and rich history in political science (Bergan et al. 2005; Gerber and Green 2008; Panagopoulos and Wielhouwer 2008). Given that voting represents one of the most basic political acts in a democracy, political scientists have an enduring interest in learning about the factors that influence political engagement. Although a great deal of research has focused on the importance of individual...

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