Effects of Advertising on Voter Turnout
Brian A. Goodrich
Three Rivers College
Effects of Advertising on Voter turnout
The idea of a negative advertisement towards a political opponent became commonplace in the election of 2000, but most notably and recent, the 2012 election. Final tallies find more than 3 million ads of all kinds during this election with a price tag of over 2 billion dollars. A 2013 research paper published in The Forum by Erika Franklin Fowler of Wesleyan and Travis Ridout of Washington State concluded the following: “Record amounts of money went to purchase television advertising during the 2012 election cycle, resulting in unprecedented volumes of advertising. This increase was due in part to the ease with which outside groups, such as super PACs, were able to raise and spend advertising dollars in the current, post-Citizens United, regulatory regime. Advertising in 2012 was also extremely negative, especially at the presidential level, and frequently evoked the emotion of anger. Yet whether 2012 marks the high point for spending on advertising — and whether the negativity will abate in the next presidential election — remain open questions”(p.2). The Wesleyan Media Group(2012) compiled information into a bar graph of how increasingly negative political campaigns have become over the past elections, which can be seen on the next page.
Stating that in the 2000 election just 30% of ads were negative, or attacking of their opponent in some way, this increased to 45% in 2004 and 51% in 2008. In the most recent election in 2012 however, 65% of political advertising were negative or malicious in some way. A 2008 study published in The Journal of Politics, Sides, John; Karch, Andrew. The Journal of Politics, April 2008, Vol. 70, Issue 2, 466-476. “Messages that Mobilize? Issue Publics and the Content of Campaign Advertising,” looks at the effect of issue-specific television ads on the turnout of targeted groups. The authors, based at the George Washington University and the University of Texas at Austin, combined data from the Current Population Survey over the 1998, 2000 and 2002 election cycles with data on the media markets in which the ads aired. These studies showed that targeted campaign ads appear to have only a small measurable effect on groups: “In three election years, we found no consistent evidence that messages related to Social Security and Medicare were associated with higher turnout among seniors or that 4
messages related to veterans were associated with higher turnout among veterans. Groups such as parents did seem to be mobilized by targeted ads, but the effects may be so small as to be extraordinarily expensive to exploit, with diminishing returns. In one media market, it took more than 4,000 ads to make turnout just 6.4% more likely among parents; in a more lightly advertised market, just 322 spots resulted in a 3.8% increased likelihood in turnout. This means that to achieve a further 2.6 percentage points in likely turnout, the “number of newly mobilized parent’s yields a cost-per-vote of $282. This is roughly 15 times the average cost-per-vote of door-to-door get-out-the-vote efforts. Because targeted ads appear to have limited effectiveness, they do not exacerbate differences in turnout rates between groups and do not exacerbate existing inequalities at the very least”(p.3-5). Sides, John; Karch, Andrew. The Journal of Politics, April 2008, Vol. 70, Issue 2, 466-476. However, in other countries around the world such advertising is not only rare, but in some illegal. As in the UK there is a blanket ban on political advertising, which was upheld in 2005 when the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, banned an ADI TV ad, 'my mate's a primate', showing a chimpanzee in a cage as it breached the UK ban on political advertising. In the Philippines, however, the Comelec Resolution No 9615,...
References: allafrica.com (Princewill Ekwujuru Spetember 29, 2014)
bahamanpundit.com (Larry Smith November 16, 2011)
Gulfnews.com (Gilbert P. Felongco January 16, 2013)
www.idea.int/publications (Rafael López Pintor,
Maria Gratschew and Kate Sullivan)
Journalistsresource.org (Sides, John; Karch, Andrew. The Journal of Politics, April 2008, Vol. 70, Issue 2, 466-477)
urcabahamas.bs (Press release November 9th, 2011)
Wesleyan media group (Erika Franklin Fowler of Wesleyan and Travis Ridout of Washington State 2013)
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