Over the past several decades, American congressional elections have transformed from campaigns centered around local issues into nationally oriented—or “nationalized”—contests. Today it would seem that parties offer voters the same choices throughout the country, with each candidate in each district running on the same party-driven platform. To remedy our current state of politics, reforms must be made to refocus candidate attention away from national politics and back toward local concerns. To achieve this aim, it is crucial to take stock of our current electoral environment. My dissertation constitutes an important first step toward this endeavor by providing a comprehensive overview of the state of modern campaigns. Further, employing data on issues-of-the-day like the Opioid Epidemic and #MeToo movement, I identify the conditions under which candidates still “go local.” To explore congressional candidate campaigns, I embark on an ambitious data collection effort. I plan to collect the policy platforms from campaign websites for all primary election candidates for the House of Representatives who ran in 2018 or are running in 2020. Once completed, this collection will be the first comprehensive data set of candidate campaign platforms. These text data will provide important insights into how today’s candidates employ social media in their campaigns.
PhD Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill