(Phys.org) -- A large majority of Americans are dead-set against the practice of tailored political advertising at the very time in the 2012 election that the activity is seeing unprecedented growth. In fact, a high percentage of Americans dislike tailored political advertising so much they say their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease if they find out the candidate engages in it.
That is one of several eye-opening results from the first national survey on tailored political advertising, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvanias Annenberg School for Communication. Among the findings:
· Fully 86% of Americans say they do not want political advertising tailored to your interests. The number is far higher than the still-quite-high proportions of the population who reject other forms of tailored communication: ads for products and services that are tailored to your interests (61%), news that is tailored to your interests (56%), and discounts that are tailored to your interests (46%).
· 64% of Americans say their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease (37% say decrease a lot, 27% say decrease somewhat) if they learn a candidates campaign organization buys information about their online activities and their neighbors online activitiesand then sends them different political messages it thinks will appeal to them. [This activity is common during the 2012 election.]
· 70% of adult Americans say their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease (50% say decrease a lot, 22% say decrease somewhat) if they learn a candidates campaign organization uses Facebook to send ads to the friends of a person who likes the candidates Facebook page. The ads contain someones profile photo and proclaim they support the candidate. [This activity, too, is taking place during the 2012 election.]
· 77% of Americans agreed (including 35% who agreed strongly) that If I knew a website I visit was sharing information about me with political advertisers, I would not return to the site. [Many sites, independently or through third parties, do share such data.]
· 85% agreed (including 47% who agreed strongly) that If I found out that Facebook was sending me ads for political candidates based on my profile information that I had set to private, I would be angry. [Facebook does do this.]
This election year marks a watershed moment for online advertising. In unprecedented ways, and to an unprecedented extent, campaign organizations across the American political spectrum are using hundreds of pieces of information about individuals online and offline lives to ensure the right people are being targeted with the right messages, says Joseph Turow, Ph.D., the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication and lead researcher on the study. Yet, we found that contrary to what marketers claim, the vast majority of adult Americans do not want political campaigns to tailor advertisements to their interests.
Targeting advertising is the analysis of data about a population to determine who should receive a persuasive message, how, when and for what reasons. Tailored advertising means shaping a persuasive message for a particular individual based on conclusions the targeting process generated about that persons interests and values. Critics say this threatens privacy and undermining democratic values. Marketers, including political campaign consultants, defend the practice by insisting it gives Americans what they want: political advertisements and other forms of content that are relevant to their concerns.
Prof. Turow and his colleagues Michael X. Delli Carpini, Ph.D., Professor of Communication and Walter H. Annenberg Dean; and doctoral students Nora Draper and Rowan Howard-Williamswrote the questions for the 20 minute survey. Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted 1,503 telephone interviews (landline and cellular phones) with a representative sample of internet-using adult Americans via between April 23 and May 6, 2012.
The findings represent a national statement of concern, says Turow. We have a major attitudinal tug of war: the publics emphatic and broad rejection of tailored political ads pulling against political campaigns growing adoption of tailored political advertising without disclosing when they are using individuals information and how. Our survey shows that in the face of these activities, Americans themselves want information.
For example, respondents want to know what political campaigns know about them that lead to a tailored ad, and how they learned it. When asked If a political campaign sends you an online ad thats relevant to you, would you want to know what the campaign knows about you that led to the ad, or do you not care?, 65% said they would want to know. Further, when asked if they would want to know where the campaign got the information to make it relevant, or do you not care? 76% said they would want to know.
Its hard to escape the conclusion that our survey is tapping into a deep discomfort over behavioral targeting and tailored advertising when it comes to politics, says Prof. Turow. Political campaigning is moving in a direction starkly at odds with what the public believes should take place. We suggest how this divide may in coming decades erode citizens beliefs in the authority of elections. We also suggest steps toward lifting the hood on the new world of political marketing in the interest of public discussion regarding Americans understanding of their evolving political system and where they would like to see it go.
Explore further: Gift giving 101: When do 'perfect' gifts backfire?