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The Nationalization of Local Campaigns and its Efficacy as a Campaign Strategy Open Access

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This thesis examines the "nationalization" of non-federal political campaigns. Nationalization presents empirically when a campaign for a local or state office employs a messaging strategy which invokes the name or likeness of a federal politician or a particular federal policy. Nationalization can be either positive (supporting the national politician or policy) or negative (opposing the national politician or policy) and is delivered to voters through any of the common campaign messaging tactics such as direct mail or mass media advertisements. In order to analyze nationalization and its effectiveness in local campaigns, this thesis employs a mixed methodology of both qualitative and quantitative examination. The thesis introduces the strategy in an anecdotal fashion by providing a qualitative examination of four case studies. Following the case studies is a deep analysis of the nationalization of local campaigns through data collected from a directed survey instrument, which was developed in the Qualtrics Survey Software and deployed via e-mail to general political consultants across the nation. The qualitative analysis continued in depth utilizing the survey data to answer three questions: 1. Is nationalization in a trend?, 2. Is nationalization increasing?, 3. Why are local campaigns nationalizing?Survey data was also used to quantitatively determine the efficacy of nationalization in local campaigns; that is, to answer the question "Do campaigns increase their vote share by nationalizing?" To determine efficacy, known nationalized elections were compared to three historical elections for the same position and to contemporaneous elections for similar positions. The results from nationalized elections were compared to these other elections by two t-tests. Results of the data indicate that nationalization is, in fact, a growing national trend with campaigns in 36 states from every region being nationalized. It was also determined that nationalization has been on the rise in the past few years but will likely level off over the coming years. The leading reason for nationalization was the popularity or unpopularity of the federal politician or policy invoked. T-test results proved with statistical significance at the .01 level that nationalized races increased their vote share over both historical and contemporaneous elections. The research concludes that nationalization of local elections is a widely used and likely effective campaign strategy for non-federal races. These findings, while not generalizable, offer several implications for scholars and political practitioners. And because this thesis is the first to examine the phenomenon of nationalization, copious opportunities for future research exist.

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