APSA (American political science association) short course programme        

Sponsored by the UKPSA Political marketing group (http://groups.google.com/group/political-marketing)      

Hosted by George Washington University Graduate School of Political management      







Organisers: Dr Jennifer Lees-Marshment (University of Auckland)  j.lees-marshment@auckland.ac.nz; Dr Christine B. Williams (Bentley University) cwilliams@bentley.edu; Dr Kenneth Cosgrove (Suffolk University) kcosgrov@suffolk.edu      

 The APSA short course – or workshop – on political marketing was a great success, helping to stimulate new relationships and interest in political marketing in the US. We know how important networks are in stimulating political science research in political marketing – the UK PMG and new Canadian PM network are testament to this – so we were really delighted when APSA agreed to let us run a short course on political marketing. GWU school of political management agree to host us, and the PMG funded lunch and coffee and Taylor and Francis/Routledge publishers sponsoring a wonderful morning coffee.      

It all came out of an idea I had when attending the Canadian PSA Political marketing workshop in 2010, and was chatting to Ken Cosgrove about the need for a network to promote US political science scholarship in political marketing. Ken enthusiastically joined me to create a bid to APSA to accept our proposal and Christine Williams who is North American editor of the Journal of Political Marketing became another key co-organiser who will take this new network further in future and I am really grateful to both of them for their hard work and energy for making this event – the first political marketing event at the American political science association – work.      

Alex Braun booked a table for us for the night before at the Logan Tavern where most of us met up for a good chat. And Kenneth Cosgrove directed us to a wonderful beer-place for a celebratory drink after the short course ended.      

It was wonderful to see so many colleagues from both the US and all over the world and I really appreciate everyone who helped and contributed to making the day a success, including the practitioner speakers.      

Trends in academic research      

A range of excellent papers were presented by academic papers, and the interesting trend to observe was the emerging focus on relationship, branding, and changing democracy itself. There was talk of the need for parties to maintain a distinctive brand, for parties to utilise responsive marketing to involve their members and supporters, and the importance of building a long-term positive relationship between politicians and the public, and the use of deliberative marketing and move towards a partnership between the elites and massess. There seems to be a shift from short to long-term political marketing, suggesting a change both in practice and academic study      

Anita Dunn keynote: move from transactional to transformational political marketing.       

Anita Dunn Obama’s first White House Communications Director gave a highly relevant and interesting keynote which talked about the importance of segmentation, micro-targeting, branding and cross-generational communicaton. More profoundly, she also talked about how political marketing is changing from being transaction based (this is the product I offer to you) – to transformational (work with me to create change). She argued this was the difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and it represents an important change in the relationship between voters and politicians whereby voters are being asked to be engaged and get involved, rather than just treated as political consumers of the political product. There is the need for a greater dialogue between elites and masses and a move away from top down campaigning.       

Practitioner debate: Does the use of market research in politics mean the end of leadership in the 21st century?      

We had a wonderful line up for this debate: Sara Taylor who had advised President George W Bush; Patrick Muttart who advised Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and had just stepped off the plan from the Australian Liberals 2010 campaign; Peter Fenn who is a veteran advisor to many US politicians including Bill Clinton; Alex Braun who works on international campaigns including the UK Labour party; Dave Paleologos who works as pollster for US candidates but is also Director of the Political Research Center at  Suffolk University and has written on the problems of poll-driven politics; and Joe Eyer who advised Al Gore and is also a grassroots campaign organiser. We had a wonderful, engaging discussion on this topic, with the audience and speakers noting how:      

  1. It depends on the political character of the leader and whether they want to transform public opinion or just manage it
  2. It’s harder to be a bold leader but they can use market research to inform communication and lead
  3. The proliferation of public polling is a challenge for leadership especially on polarising issues but this doesn’t make it impossible to lead
  4. There can be a problem if politicians take a poll before deciding their position, but we need to listen twice as much as we talk and research is important in this, as long as politicians keep their backbone
  5. Good research can help achieve leader goals
  6. Research makes campaigning more efficient and can be integrated within leadership
  7. There can be little room for discussion because there is too much time just reporting polls as society is over-polled
  8. Polling puts a lot of pressure on the candidates
  9. All research should be put online to make it transparent; this might then encourage greater quality
  10. Survey research is an indispensible part of leadership; the two cannot be separated  
  11. In a mass market politicians need some way to figure out how the public feel, especially on new issues such as internet safety  



And we had a wonderful final plenary on what is hot and what’s not in political marketing which discussed mainly online communication. My thanks to my co-organisers for their hard work and support, Jenny Lloyd to coming to represent the PMG and chairing so many panels as well as taking great photos, and to GWU for hosting us, to APSA for agreeing to let us host the short course in the first place, and of course both the academic and practitioner speakers.    










Final programme    


Further details, including speaker bios and paper abstracts