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In Politics, what is Stumping?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Politicians on the campaign trail are said to be stumping, as they cross the country delivering speeches and attending rallies. A stump speech, the linchpin of stumping, is designed to persuade audiences to support a candidate, through voting and campaign donations. Stumping is also sometimes used in other contexts, but usually refers to the political sense. Stumping is accompanied by long tradition, with most candidates hiring specific staff members to write and refine speeches, and a substantial portion of campaign funds being used to support stumping trips.

It is theorized that the term “stumping” came about because a stump provides a useful platform to stand on while speaking. Especially in rural areas, candidates could be seen head and shoulders above a crowd while they spoke if standing on a stump. In more settled areas, presumably a platform was built for stumping purposes, but the phrase stuck. In Britain, politicians are said to be “on the Hustings,” in reference to a platform traditionally used by candidates to address the Parliament.

Stumping is a crucial part of campaigning, and an opportunity for potential voters to meet candidates. Most politicians feel that no town is too small for stumping because of the additional exposure provided to the campaign. In addition to using rousing speeches, many candidates have come up with various stumping gimmicks, such as taking a train tour of the United States, delivering a speech at every stop. These tours are often called a "whistle-stop tours," and were especially popular in the golden age of railways, although they continue to be used today in campaigns.

Stump speeches are usually designed to be used in several locations with small changes, conveying the same basic ideas at each stop. Talented staff members will rework the speech slightly for each location, subtly changing the focus as needed. A successful stump speech requires some knowledge about the area it is being given in, and several compelling hooks to keep the audience engaged.

In addition to winning voters, stumping is also designed to raise funds for political campaigns. In most areas, the audience is encouraged to donate to the campaign in order to support the ideals it represents. While donations from individuals probably do not approach those given by large corporations, most politicians are aware that even small contributions are important. Furthermore, most voters who provide economic support will also provide support at the polls, voting for the candidates they assist financially and encouraging friends and workmates to do likewise.

Stumping is an integral part of politics in most nations, with politicians understanding the value of the personal visit in a campaign. Building a connection with the voting base will make a campaign more likely to succeed.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By FrogFriend — On Oct 12, 2010

@ronburg44, I can understand your sentiment about wanting the personal experience that old-time politicians would bring to the towns where voters lived but there is a huge advantage that we have today as voters and it is called the media.

By the media doing a thorough job of researching the backgrounds of candidates, we have a service that simply would not be possible on an individual basis. Can you imagine spending the time it takes to research all the candidates for yourself. People wouldn't do it and we would end up with way more crooked office holders then we have right now.

By ronburg44 — On Oct 12, 2010

I wish that there was still an old style of political stumping that happened on our campaign trails of today.

Can you imagine seeing major league politicians trying to vie against the yelling voices of today's crowds. I am sure that politicians of yesteryear had to deal with this somewhat but they also didn't have crowds that can reach into tens of thousands of people.

Perhaps this would bring some humility to the politicians and somewhat lower them to the level of the common man. Now all we get these days is a step off an airplane and maybe some hand waves or a pricey to join fundraiser dinner.

Other then that our only options for evaluating the personal interaction of our politicians is what the media is showing us in newspapers and on television.

By CoffeeJim — On Oct 12, 2010

The problem with political stumping is that it often leads to mud slinging on the campaign trail. These sometimes more personal sorts of meetings between politicians and constituents or possible voters is seen in the modern day as termed, town hall meetings.

These local level meetings are probably the closest thing that we have to the days of yesterday when the candidates would actually stand on platforms or stumps for small crowds.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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