Political Campaign Endorsements Are Useless in Local Elections

. . . which we have said before on this site, although some of our readers disagree. Larry Powell is a political communications expert who teaches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his revelations in this article are worth checking out. Here’s a snippet:

“In general, endorsements are worthless and don’t often lead to victories for most candidates, even when the individuals giving the endorsements are extremely popular,” says Powell, who teaches in the UAB Department of Communication Studies. “There always will be some voters who don’t like the individual making the endorsement, and those voters will be more likely to vote against the endorsement rather than for it. And newspaper endorsements often hurt candidates, costing them as much as 3 percent in the polls.

“Endorsements by large organizations that can pass on the endorsements to their membership, however, can be effective,” Powell says, “particularly in minor races where voters haven’t really thought about who is the best candidate. So they are more likely to check the endorsement and go with that candidate. But if it is a high-profile election for governor or lieutenant governor, an endorsement usually will have little impact on voters because they often have thought a lot about the candidates.”

political endorsementIn my experience, candidates running in local elections put way too much stock in political campaign endorsements . . . both from individuals and newspapers.

I’m especially befuddled at candidates who react to an endorsement from the local newspaper as though they have won the election. The fact is that newspaper endorsements don’t predict the winner of elections with any kind of reliability, and they’re becoming even less consequential as traditional news consumers decrease.

I’ll say it again: newspapers routinely endorse the weakest candidates–and the eventually losers–in political campaigns. If you’re running in a local election, don’t waste time celebrating a newspaper endorsement and bragging about it. Instead, get back on the campaign trail and concentrate on the hard work that really wins elections.

The same goes for endorsements from popular politicians and community leaders: they’re nice to have, but they aren’t going to win the election for you. While you should never turn down an endorsement from well-liked entity, don’t make the mistake of basing your entire campaign–or even a part of your campaign–on it.