Personal Campaign Strategies and Political Representation

Research question/goal: 

The ongoing changes in the functioning of political parties stress individual representatives as alternative linkages between citizens and the state. This project studied the election campaigns of individual party candidates regarding a number of problems that have become relevant in this respect. It has put a special emphasis on campaign styles and on the following research questions: How can we systematically describe individualized election campaigns? How do they differ from party-driven campaigns? To what degree are we able to observe individualized campaigns in European elections? Which factors foster, which hinder the diffusion of individualized election campaigns? Based on two waves of the Comparative Candidates Survey (CCS) questionnaire, surveys of individual candidates standing for office in national parliamentary elections were administered across Europe; a third wave has been in the field since 2018. These surveys are questioning parliamentary candidates of political parties who operate under very different incentive structures in order to investigate whether and how these mattered to their campaigns.

A comparative data set including some 50 candidate surveys, conducted with the first wave questionnaire of the CCS, has been published in the Swiss data archive FORS. Furthermore, a preliminary version of the integrated data from the second wave is available. A number of journal articles and conference presentations have been published, and a comparative book project on wave one surveys has been proposed to Routledge. The three editors of that book—Lieven de Winter (Louvain and Brussels), Rune Karlson (Oslo) and Hermann Schmitt (Manchester and Mannheim)—have received a number of very favourable reviews for that book proposal and are looking forward to sign a book contract by the end of 2018.

Given the wealth of empirical evidence that has been assembled in the lifetime of the project and given the multitude of researchers in Germany and far beyond who analysed these data, the main findings are not easily summarised. What seems to be clear after more than a decade of empirical research into personalised campaigning is that European political parties remain to be the main agents of political representation. While personalisation of electoral campaigning does exist, there is no conclusive evidence that individual representatives have indeed replaced political parties as intermediaries, linking citizens and the state.

Fact sheet

University of Mannheim, DFG, Fritz Thyssen Foundation
2005 to 2018
Data Sources: 
Geographic Space: 



Behnke, Joachim, Thomas Gschwend, Delia Schindler and Kai-Uwe Schnapp (Eds.) (2006): Methoden der Politikwissenschaft. Neuere qualitative und quantitative Analyseverfahren. Baden-Baden: Nomos. more