University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Study: Advanced campaigning wins Danish elections

Research from University of Copenhagen provides evidence for which campaign strategies are most effective

Political campaigns are won by money and grit. A new study by the Center for Voting and Parties, a part of University of Copenhagen’s political science faculty, is attempting to quantify how exactly.

It concludes that a full third of the races in the 2011 general election were decided by how well campaigns were run, as opposed to espoused policy or competence of individual candidates.

“Campaigns are becoming increasingly more professional – interviews with party leaders indicate more money is spent on campaigning, and the manpower employed by campaigns is ever-increasing.”, Karina Kosiara-Pedersen, one of the three authors of the study, tells the University Post.

Issues of privacy

With increases in computing power, and thus, our ability for big data analysis, it can be tempting to conclude that campaigns will become increasingly more streamlined.

“Campaigning has become more data-driven, especially for bigger parties with more funds such as The Liberal Party. That being said, it is unlikely to reach levels seen in the US and the UK, as we have many smaller parties, with insufficient funds to employ such techniques, while some parties might also choose not to use them for ideological reasons”, Karina Kosaira-Pedersen says.

“There are also strict privacy laws in Denmark, which prevents campaigns from keeping data on individual voters. For example, in the US, and the UK parties will keep information on who voted, and use it for canvassing and getting out the vote. In Denmark, this information is considered confidential and campaigns are not allowed to keep it”.

TV is king

The study is based on data from 545 candidates, who ran in the national election in 2011. Most were found to use traditional methods for campaigning – posters and door-to-door canvassing – though newer media were certainly also shown to be in play. Most candidates tapped the power of the web, in some fashion, by creating home-pages and Facebook pages to interact with their supporters. Nearly half of candidates – 43 per cent – uploaded some kind of promotional video to Youtube.

On average, a third of candidates physically canvassed people’s home, ringing door bells. Another third used geographic data analysis – Geomatics – to identify areas of support which campaigns should focus on, by gathering and analysing data from the Danish statistics bureau, property register, and business register. Geomatic data is used in conjunction with traditional methods, such as canvassing and hanging of posters.

Not all parties had similar strategies, however: Liberal Party candidates, on average, put up 300 more posters than rivals from the Conservative Party or the Social Democrat Party. Only 2 per cent of Danish People Party candidates used door-to-door canvassing techniques.

When it comes to old-school campaigning, there are few surprises. Television advertising still reigns supreme. Local television was found to only be effective in internal party elections, though regional- and national-TV campaigning was shown effective in all races.

Read the full report (in Danish) here.

Stay in the know about news and events happening in Copenhagen by signing up for the University Post’s weekly newsletter here.