Political ads by independent groups are not only common -- they are more effective

Jun 26, 2012

As the election season ramps up, many voters are already experiencing attack ad fatigue. With the rise of the so-called Super PACs and greatly increased spending by independent groups more generally, many election watchers are anticipating that there will be far more ads – and far more attack ads – on the airwaves in this election than ever before. According to a recent article in American Politics Research, a SAGE journal, the power of ads sponsored by independent groups rests not just in their sheer volume, but also in their relative effectiveness. When an attack ad is sponsored by an independent group, the authors found that the ad is far more effective than when the same ad is sponsored by a candidate.

"This study indicates that have every reason to hope for an unofficial division of labor, in which independent groups that are unaccountable to voters will do the dirty work of running these kinds of harsh attack ads that the candidates would rather not do themselves," wrote study authors Deborah Jordan Brooks and Michael Murov.

Brooks and Murov conducted an experiment by showing a negative state-level election ad about a particular fictitious candidate. The ad was either endorsed by the candidate's opponent, by a nonpartisan independent group, or unattributed to either and shown to a sample of 1,500 U.S. adults.

Regardless of sponsorship, Brooks and Murov found that the ads were similarly persuasive regarding the flaws of the candidate who was the target of the ad. The difference was that public penalized a candidate for sponsoring such an ad with what is known as a "backlash" effect. Because there was far less backlash aimed towards the benefitting candidate if the ad sponsor was an independent group, the attack was far more effective when it was sponsored by Citizens for a Better State Government than by the candidate himself.

The authors also suggest that since there is reduced potential of backlash from voters, independent groups may face incentives to produce highly controversial advertisements while facing relatively few incentives to be truthful in .

"To the extent that they may generate controversy, they may garner free media coverage which can extend their reach well beyond actual ad expenditures," wrote the authors.

Explore further: Disadvantaged men more likely to do 'women's work' reveals new study

More information: Find out more by reading the article, "Assessing Accountability in a Post-Citizens United Era: The Effects of Attack Ad Sponsorship by Unknown Independent Groups," in American Politics Research. The article is available free for a limited time at: apr.sagepub.com/content/40/3/383.full.pdf+html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Facebook pays users to view ads

May 06, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The general consensus is that end users hate ads. That is why companies either try to make them as unobtrusive as possible, such as the small ads you would find in the sidebar of a blog, or ...

How do political debates affect advertising?

Sep 14, 2011

Advertisers covet spots during political debates, which often draw large numbers of viewers. But according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, political debate can sometime decrease the effectiveness of sub ...

Consumers and commercials studied

Jun 20, 2006

U.S. scientists say the more consumers are absorbed in the narrative flow of a story, called transportation, the less likely they'll respond well to ads.

Recommended for you

The psychology of gift-giving and receiving

12 hours ago

Gift exchanges can reveal how people think about others, what they value and enjoy, and how they build and maintain relationships. Researchers are exploring various aspects of gift-giving and receiving, such as how givers ...

Strong neighborhood ties can help reduce gun violence

14 hours ago

The bonds that tie a neighborhood together can help shield community members from gun violence, according to new findings by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jerryd
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012

So that is why Obama's rating is going up? Kind of blows this conclusion out of the water.

It might work on an unknown candidate but not so much on a known one.

Also it'll be clear to most everyone these superpac's are the biggest liars yet defeating them.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2012
This was entirely unclear.

"Also it'll be clear to most everyone these superpac's are the biggest liars yet defeating them." - Jerryd

It is a real shame that Conservatives on the U.S. supreme court feel that corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to lie during elections.

Democracy is best served by the truth.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.