3

Background

In the United States, it is common for political officials, or former political officials to endorse Candidates that are running for other offices. For example, there are numerous endorsements for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary from people who are members of the DNC up to governors and former presidents.

It is something that I don't really understand why it happens or the functional use of it. As far as I know, it is only a statement saying that said person will be voting for X, and that's it. On its face there is nothing special about that. However, the prevalence of endorsements by political or former political officials in the United States has prompted me to ask this question...

Question

What functional purpose does endorsing a candidate serve?

6

Fundamentally, political endorsements are an indication that the endorsing entity (whether group or individual) believes the endorsee is the best individual for the office being contested. This can help candidates via the following effects (but not limited to):

Transitive Influence

Endorsements can help voters decide of who to be informed about based on endorsements from political entities they already trust. Voter's already trust some politicians and politically linked groups for various reasons, and endorsements are the surest way for a candidate to tap into that trust without having to build it from the group up.

For instance, if a popular governor in the (hypothetical) State of Lincoln endorses Candidate A, it is probable that the voters in Lincoln would at the very least take a serious look at Candidate A due to their governor's support, if not blindly vote for Candidate A based on said endorsement.

Legitimization

Very closely tied to the above, endorsements from already established and known entities can legitimize the candidacy of an otherwise under-looked candidate, as the assumption is the endorsing entity would not waste an endorsement on an unimportant individual.

Campaign Resources

While not required, securing the endorsement of a entity is often a step signifying that entity's resources will be put to use for your campaign, which can be a major boost to a candidate if the endorsement comes from a larger group.

Uniting Voters

More relevant to the general election, endorsements from a large number of respected political individuals and groups can have a rallying effect. Effectively, if everyone in the party is "actively" participating instead of sitting on the sidelines, it can build excitement in voters to vote or even campaign for the chosen candidate, and present the party as a unified front against the other opponent(s) in the field.

  • 1
    Could you provide sources that prove the causality (or at least strong correlations) of these phenomena please? In absence of that, could you provide a statement(s) by people close to the political process who state that endorsing indeed is intended for the reasons above? – isakbob Sep 3 at 17:26
1

There is a two-stage election system, where the primaries are used to select the candidate for a general election.

In the general election, there would be an assumption that a Democrat backs the Democrat candidate, and a Republican backs a Republican candidate. In the primary, there is no such clarity.

For a potential voter in a primary, an endorsement by somebody the voter knows and trusts can help to narrow the a field of many, relatively unknown candidates down.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.