Do letters-to-the-editor campaigns work?

Part of the "silly season" (thanks to Fred Black for that great term) is the bloom of letters to local papers supporting certain candidates.  In some cases, individual expressions seem quite heartfelt, regardless of any larger party or issue contexts.  In some cases, the letters seem pretty much obligatory, as if someone feels the endorsement musn't fail to appear among the other letters -- for example, regarding the Sierra Club endorsements. 

Often it seems, however, that there might be a somewhat more coordinated effort to flood the letters pages with statements endorsing a given candidate -- suggesting he or she may be an underdog but with a significant groundswell of public support. 

There's nothing new about this. We see it in every local election, sometimes with respect to contentious propositions. We also see the same phenomenon in local controversies, particularly when there's "well-funded noise" (to borrow a phrase from another thread) from one side -- as with the example of Horace Williams Airport over the last 15+ years, in support of which letters routinely pour in from pilots all over the country.  Letter-writing campaigns are a standard public relations strategy.

Lately, whoever writes the captions for the Chapel Hill News letters page has had a workout spelling Matt Czajkowski's name repeatedly and correctly, without nearly the same challenge regarding Mark Kleinschmidt or Augustus Cho (although I suppose there's less of a spelling challenge there).  Let me state unequivocally that I'm not necessarily saying that the letters supporting Matt Czajkowski have all been solicited or orchestrated -- OR that there's anything deviously undemocratic about their publication even if they were -- only that there have been a lot of them compared to the numbers for other mayoral candidates.

Organized campaign or individually inspired - either way, the presumptions are that such letters persuade, and the more letters, the better the effect.

The question -- and this is from an inveterate letter-writer (whose letter in the Sunday N&O was edited into near incoherence, which shouldn't have surprised me) -- is whether such letter-writing campaigns work.  Have they worked in the past?  Do they work now, in an era of dwindling newspaper readership?

Short of actually going back to count such letters and running the stats against election results, what is your memory of the effect in previous elections or your sense of how things are going now?




Think they do work up to a point. It draws people's attention, but sometimes it could backfire to have lots of letters all praising the same candidate, if they all sound the same.  Also, what about later when the editors don't endorse the candidates with a lot of letters supporting them?  Did the editors cherrypick the letters or even run more than they normally would because of a conscience about balance?  I don't think editors can run every last letter that's received, so how do they decide?

Not really sure what the issue here is.  Are you making the point that Matt Cz. is getting a lot of support or that writing letters is probably silly because no one reads newspapers any more?  I read the letters but they have absolutely no impact on how I vote.   Usually it's a case of "usual suspects" writing about "usual suspects."  

This is kind of like the bi-annual sign war (about which we will no doubt soon have an OP post).  You have to participate in the battle of the letters to the editor, but it is not clear that it is important to win that battle.However, I think it is safe to assume that at least some voters will end up voting based on little more than what they have read on the editorial pages.  If that is so, then there must be at least some value to them.

I've been meaning to write that sign post...  :)  

That he has a lot of support in the voting community.

Bring it!

I too read letters in support of candidates but I doubt they convince a lot of people one way or the other. They might predict the "mood" of the electorate and in an off election year, that might be significant in predicting voter turn out. Don't know.

To take this blog in a slightly different direction, can we expect to see, and/or should we see, letters in support of those who have applied for Bill Strom's seat?


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.