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We report the results of the first large-scale experiment involving paid political advertising. During the opening months of a 2006 gubernatorial campaign, approximately $2 million of television and radio advertising on behalf of the incumbent candidate was deployed experimentally. In each experimental media market, the launch date and volume of television advertising were randomly assigned. In order to gauge movement in public opinion, a tracking poll conducted brief telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 registered voters each day and a brief follow-up one month after the conclusion of the television campaign. Results indicate that televised ads have strong but short-lived effects on voting preferences. The ephemeral nature of these effects is more consistent with psychological models of priming than with models of on-line processing.
Presidential campaigns are the most obvious means by which American voters receive information about candidates and issues, yet there is strong resistance to the notion that they influence presidential elections. We conduct an examination of presidential campaign effects in the 1992 and 1996 elections that features three departures from previous studies: (1) a stronger definition of campaigning and campaign events, facilitating a clearer idea of what it is that we are testing; (2) detailed data on television and newspaper coverage of the campaigns, allowing us to measure media effects; and (3) an alternative measure of electoral impact that is resistant to survey errors and random movement. We find that campaign events, and particularly media coverage of those events, significantly affect the candidates' chances for electoral success.
Although presidential campaigns have been mythologized in literature and cinema, most theories of elections relegate them to a secondary role, presuming they have little effect on outcomes. Direct tests of campaigning's influence on electoral college votes are rare, mostly because statewide data on the allocation of resources and voters' preferences have been hard to obtain. Many studies suggest a minimal effect, but it is possible that a more significant influence might be found with better data on the key dependent and independent variables. This study uses data on presidential candidates' appearances and television advertising purchases to conduct cross-sectional and pooled time-series analyses of their influence on statewide outcomes in 1988, 1992, and 1996. The data demonstrate that, despite the conditioning influence of other factors, campaigning affected statewide preferences as well as the electoral college vote.
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