Discussion paper

DP18870 Campaigning Against Populism Emotions and Information in Real Election Campaigns

Populist politicians have leveraged direct connections with voters to win elections worldwide, often using emotional rather than policy appeals. Do these forms of campaigning work for programmatic politicians as well? We partner with a mainstream opposition political party to implement a field experiment during the 2019 Philippine Senatorial election to test the effectiveness of: (i) direct in-person appeals providing policy information; (ii) the addition of an activity designed to engender positive emotion. We show that direct engagement providing policy information increases vote share for the party, even in a clientelistic context. Additionally, while the emotional activity increases engagement with the campaign in the short term, the information-only treatment was more effective. Last, we present evidence that the treatments operated through learning and persuasion channels: treated voters were more likely to know the party, more certain about their knowledge, and gave higher ratings to the party’s quality and proposed policies.


Cruz, C, J Labonne and F Trebbi (2024), ‘DP18870 Campaigning Against Populism Emotions and Information in Real Election Campaigns‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18870. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18870