Campaign Advertising and American Democracy

Campaign Advertising and American Democracy

Michael M. Franz
Paul B. Freedman
Kenneth M. Goldstein
Travis N. Ridout
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Campaign Advertising and American Democracy
    Book Description:

    It has been estimated that more than three million political ads were televised leading up to the elections of 2004. More than $800,000,000 was spent on TV ads in the race for the White House alone and presidential candidates, along with their party and interest group allies, broadcast over a million ads -- more than twice the number aired before the 2000 elections. What were the consequences of this barrage of advertising?Were viewers turned off by political advertising to the extent that it disuaded them from voting, as some critics suggest? Did they feel more connected to political issues and the political system or were they alienated? These are the questions this book answers, based on a unique, robust, and extensive database dedicated to political advertising.Confronting prevailing opinion, the authors of this carefully researched work find that political ads may actually educate, engage, and mobilize American voters. Only in the rarest of circumstances do they have negative impacts.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-457-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Campaign Advertising: The Whipping Boy of American Politics
    (pp. 1-10)

    AMERICAN-STYLE DEMOCRACY may or may not ultimately take root in Iraq, but Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich has a point in any case, and it’s an important one: For most people, the idea of exporting to an emerging democracy the kind of campaign ads Americans have come to know—and supposedly loathe—is a joke (see cartoon on page 2). The notion that American-style campaign advertising might find a place in a democratic Iraq is simply laughable. Campaign advertising, according to conventional wisdom, is a corrupted form of democratic discourse—something we would be better off without, and something...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Campaign Ads as Information Supplements: A Spillover Theory of Advertising Effects
    (pp. 11-24)

    THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HOW campaign advertising affects citizens’ grasp of the alternatives in a campaign, their evaluation of the process, and their inclination to participate in it. It is not about the effects of advertising on voters’ opinions about the candidates or the outcome of elections; we largely sidestep questions of candidate evaluation and vote choice, asking instead how campaign ads affect what voters know about the candidates, how interested and engaged they are in the election process, and whether or not they actually participate. Although these questions are vitally important for American democracy, they are of little interest...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Measuring Exposure to Campaign Ads
    (pp. 25-35)

    THE DISPARATE CLAIMS about campaign advertising and its effects on American citizens, explored in the last chapter, reflect in part the myriad methodological approaches that have been brought to bear on the subject. The methodological pluralism represented in the literature is, by some measures, a good thing; however, at times it seems as though the field has been left with more questions than answers. Ultimately, the study of campaign advertising—and its impact on citizens—has been hampered by a dearth of good empirical data and an insufficient understanding of how advertising is crafted and deployed in political campaigns.


  8. CHAPTER FOUR Tracking the Volume and Content of Political Advertising
    (pp. 36-51)

    SINCE 2000, THE WISCONSIN Advertising Project has gathered, processed, coded, and made available to the scholarly community tracking data originally collected by TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG).¹ This commercial firm specializes in providing detailed, real-time tracking information to corporate and political clients. Such information is employed by candidates and corporations seeking market-level information on where their opponents are advertising and what they are saying. It also enables candidates and corporations to verify that the ads they paid for indeed have been broadcast by a television station at the time promised.

    These tracking data represent the most comprehensive and...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE What, When, and Where: Making Sense of Campaign Advertising
    (pp. 52-67)

    OVER THE COURSE OF THE 2000 election season, 970,424 ads advocating for federal candidates aired in the top seventy-five media markets. In 2004, in these same markets, 1,050,630 ads aired on behalf of presidential, Senate, and House candidates (over 600,000 of which were for the presidential race). In the top 100 media markets for 2004 (as noted earlier, CMAG expanded its market coverage that year), nearly 1.4 million spots aired. Ads in both years aired at all times of the day and during scores of different shows, and they were sponsored by candidates, parties, and independent interest groups.

    In order...

  10. CHAPTER SIX What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?
    (pp. 68-86)

    THERE ARE PROBABLY few people (besides the four of us) who sit down in front of their television sets during election season and say, “Let’s watch some campaign ads!” Rather, advertising comes to people uninvited and mostly unwelcome. But campaign ads do not appear automatically and are not distributed randomly. Ad exposure varies geographically—as described in Chapter 5, the most advertising shows up in the most competitive markets, for example. Ad exposure also varies individually—a citizen who steers clear of local news, for example, devoting all of his or her television-watching time to movies on premium cable channels,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Campaign Advertising and Voter Attitudes toward the Political Process
    (pp. 87-104)

    AS WE DEMONSTRATED in the previous chapter, campaign advertisements have the potential to inform citizens. More specifically, we showed that exposure to campaign advertising was related to informational gains in the context of presidential, House, and Senate races. Still, while ads may inform, critics also contend that they create a toxic atmosphere, turning people away from politics and making governing and accepting election results more difficult.

    As said by Kay McFadden ofThe Seattle Times,in 2004:

    Study after study reveals, commercials for Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry have emerged as the No. 1...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Campaign Advertising and Citizen Participation
    (pp. 105-116)

    DURING THE 2004 CAMPAIGN season, 3.4 percent of Americans adults did campaign work for a candidate or party; 7.6 percent attended a campaign meeting, rally, or speech; 9.6 percent contributed money to a candidate; 20.6 percent displayed a campaign sign or bumper sticker; 48.5 percent tried to influence the vote of someone else;¹ and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 58.3 percent of the voting-age population voted. While participation in many political activities, such as doing actual campaign work, was very low, a large number of Americans talked to their friends and neighbors about the elections, and even more people...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Advertising Tone and Political Engagement
    (pp. 117-135)

    WE HAVE SEEN IN the previous chapters that exposure to political advertisements can have important effects on what voters know, as well as on their attitudes about the political process. In this chapter, we look at whether different types of advertisements have different effects on what potential voters learn, think, and do. More specifically, we ask whether the tone of advertising matters.

    Critics of campaign advertising have reserved their harshest attacks for attack ads themselves. One of the main problems with campaign advertising, according to the critics, is that it is too negative. As we saw in Chapter 2, negative...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Campaign Advertising and American Democracy
    (pp. 136-144)

    ACCORDING TO THE conventional wisdom put forth by many pundits and some scholars, campaign advertising (and negative advertising in particular) serves to corrupt and debase democratic discourse, mislead and confuse citizens, shrink and polarize the electorate, and constrain elected representatives in their efforts to promote good public policy. Collectively, according to this popular and unfortunately robust view, campaign advertising serves to undermine the integrity of our political system. It is something we should try to restrain, limit, or even eliminate here at home, and it decidedly is not something we should wish upon the citizens of an emerging democracy.


  15. APPENDIX A: Assessing the Validity of the CMAG Tracking Data
    (pp. 145-146)
  16. APPENDIX B: Assessing the Reliability of the CMAG Storyboard Coding
    (pp. 147-150)
  17. APPENDIX C: Datasets and Variables
    (pp. 151-160)
  18. APPENDIX D: Wisconsin Advertising Project Coding Sheet for 2000 Ads
    (pp. 161-166)
  19. APPENDIX E: Wisconsin Advertising Project Coding Sheet for 2004 Ads
    (pp. 167-178)
  20. NOTES
    (pp. 179-186)
    (pp. 187-194)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 195-198)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)