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8 The Future Study of Ad Effects T HE CORE MESSAGE of this book is that televised political advertising influences the choices voters make at the ballot box. This is true despite the recent rise of Internet-based politics . Beyond demonstrating the simple presence of advertising effects, though, our goal was to show that the extent of advertising’s influence varies depending on the context of the race, the characteristics of the advertising itself, and the characteristics of the receiver of the message . We have succeeded in finding some ad effects that are contingent , but we have also shown that some ad effects are quite widespread. We will briefly review the findings of the previous chapters. We discovered in Chapter 4 that, first and foremost, exposure to political advertising does influence the votes that people cast. This was true even in presidential general election races, where ad effects arguably should be least evident, given relatively balanced message flows and high degrees of knowledge among citizens about the candidates. The strength of advertising’s influence does vary across race contexts, however. Ads have greater influence, for example, in highly competitive races. This makes sense if voters are paying more attention during races that feature an intense message environment. Ads also have a greater influence on voting for Senate challengers as opposed to incumbents, which also makes sense, given that less is initially known about challengers. 146 Î Chapter 8 In Chapter 5, we discovered that both tone-based and emotionbased accounts have limitations in explaining how the characteristics of advertising matter for voting choice. More specifically, our pattern of results was inconsistent across races, with fear and anger ads sometimes working as their sponsors intended and sometime provoking a backlash. Sometimes, exposure to negative or contrast ads worked in favor of their sponsors, and sometimes they were simply ineffective. The good news for candidates and their political allies is that promotional advertising in general, and appeals to enthusiasm specifically, never resulted in a backlash. Despite a pattern of mixed findings, however, we did find that the intended effects model received the bulk of empirical support. We discovered in Chapter 6 that ad effects were also more widespread than we had predicted. One effect we did expect, however: ads were persuasive even for those who were low in political knowledge. This may be, in part, because of the nature of the message that the typical ad conveys: it is short, simple, and to the point and backed by narration, visuals, and music. Normatively, this is not a bad thing in today’s environment, in which political novices are increasingly ignored by campaigns that have shifted their mobilization and targeting efforts to core supporters or regular voters (Goldstein and Ridout 2002)—precisely those citizens who tend to know more about politics. Thus, political ads keep novices connected to elections. In addition, partisans seem as, or even more, responsive to political advertising than political independents. Although dosageresistance models, such as Zaller’s, suggest that because independents lack partisan anchors, they should be influenced the most by advertising , we found that this was not the case. Indeed, while we found many instances in which advertising reinforced people’s partisan predispositions , we also found a number of instances in which Republicans seemed open to Democrats’ messages and Democrats seemed open to Republicans’ messages. This implies that voters are not automatically rejecting messages from the opposing political camp, perhaps because these ads take pains to avoid identifying the party of the sponsoring candidate and perhaps because campaigns are making specific appeals to voters of the other party on so-called wedge issues (Hillygus and Shields 2009). The Future Study of Ad Effects D 147 Finally, in Chapter 7 we tested the idea that it is not just paid advertising that influences voting choices. News media coverage of advertising has that potential, as well, and this has become more frequent in recent years. We were curious whether the media’s continued fascination with discussing candidates’ political advertising would translate into persuasion. We were unable to find empirical support for this idea, however, in our omnibus tests of ad coverage’s influence. We nonetheless do not discount the possibility that certain “sticky” ads that generate a frenzy of media attention, such as the Swift Boat ads in 2004, have the potential to sway a lot of voters—and at not much cost to the sponsor. Our total set of findings do not suggest a unifying theory of the influence of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781439903346
Related ISBN
9781439903339
MARC Record
OCLC
719377497
Pages
186
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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