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Ian Ward, "'Localizing the National': The Rediscovery and Reshaping of Local Campaigning in Australia," Party Politics, 9 (September 2003), 583-600.

First Paragraph:
Over the past several decades electioneering has undergone a metamorphosis variously described as 'Americanization', modernization, or professionalization. In essence there has been a drift away from a labour- intensive, localized campaigning reliant on the efforts of volunteer campaign workers and party members. Instead, election campaigns have increasingly evolved into high-cost, high-tech, highly calculated and centralized operations that depend upon the professional skills of hired pollsters, advertising specialists, marketers and other communications consultants. Several recent comparative studies confirm that campaigning in a range of democracies has evolved in this same way (see Bowler and Farrell, 1992: 232-3; Butler and Ranney, 1992: 279-80; Kavanagh, 1995: 10; Mancini and Swanson, 1996: 2). A general conclusion which is easily drawn is that, where it survives, local level campaigning matters little. Indeed, as Pippa Norris (2000b: 137) observes, 'many accounts have noted the decline of traditional forms of party campaigning, such as local rallies and door-to-door canvassing'. However, a careful analysis of contemporary electioneering practice suggests, at least in Australia's case, that local campaigning has obtained a new-found importance.

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Last Paragraph:
No major party is now able to commit an army of party workers to grass roots campaigns of the kind once the norm in Australian politics. Recent efforts by both the Labor and Liberal parties to 'localize' their national campaigns are scarcely attempts to turn back the clock to an earlier era. Instead they rely upon sophisticated opinion research, computer databases, telephone banks, laser printers and -- where they are available -- regional broadcast media whose footprints coincide with individual electorate boundaries. Briefly, technological change has now made possible new means of constituency-level campaigning. Norris (2000a: 5), in describing the emergence of a postmodern phase of political communication, argues that elections may see a return to some forms of engagement found in the premodern stage as the new channels of communication allow greater interactivity between voters and politicians'. Recent Australian elections in which parties have 'put less emphasis on a national campaign and more effort into threading together a series of localised campaigns across the country' (Milne, 2001) appear to support her argument. In the light of Norris's thesis that countries such as Australia have now entered a new postmodern era of election campaigning, political scientists now need to rethink the argument that technological change has rendered local campaigning unimportant.