Does negative political advertising actually work?

June 04, 2018

Key Takeaways: Negative advertising in politics works, but it's more effective if the advertising comes directly from a candidate or candidate's campaign. Negative Advertising from Political Action Committees (PACs) is less effective by comparison. Positive political advertising is less effective.

CATONSVILLE, MD, June 1, 2018 - While many may dread campaign season because of pervasiveness of negative political advertising, a new study has found that negative political advertising actually works, but perhaps not in the way that many may assume.

The study "A Border Strategy Analysis of Ad Source and Message Tone in Senatorial Campaigns," which will be published in the June edition of INFORMS journal Marketing Science, is co-authored by Yanwen Wang of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; Michael Lewis of Emory University in Atlanta; and David A. Schweidel of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The study examined political advertising and its impact on the share of the vote in two-party races in 2010 and 2012 U.S. senatorial campaigns. It focused on advertising across the borders of designated marketing areas (DMAs), where discontinuities may exist that lead to different levels of exposure to political advertising. DMAs are typically used by marketers to define marketing areas by town, city or major metropolitan area.

The study authors found that negative advertising is powerful in terms of influencing preferences and voter turnout, but not across the board. When the ads are from the candidates or campaigns themselves, the negative advertising was found to be more effective. When the negative advertising was from Political Action Committees (PACs), it was not as effective.

"We studied advertising discontinuities along DMA borders within states to study the impact of political advertising based on the source of the advertising and message tone," said Yanwen Wang. "Our analysis used a data set from the 2010 and 2012 senatorial elections, and it included all the within-state DMA borders for 2010 and 2012 senatorial elections, gross rating points for every ad (GRP) in these DMAs, every ad sponsorship and tone, demographic information, and county-level votes."

Using GRPs to measure effectiveness, the study found that negative political advertising has a significant effect on two-party vote shares. On the other hand, positive political advertising was found to be ineffective.

When the researchers compared campaign ads created by candidates' campaigns to those created by PACs, they found that advertising sponsored by PACs is significantly less effective in terms of two-party vote shares and ineffective in terms of turnouts. "We find that negative advertising GRPs from candidates are approximately twice as effective as advertising GRPs sponsored by PACs," said Michael Lewis. "In terms of mobilizing voters, we find that negative advertising GRPs from candidates have a significant effect on voter turnout, but negative advertising from PACs is ineffective in mobilizing turnouts."

According to study author David Schweidel, the credibility of the person or group behind the ad may be the determining factor on the effectiveness of the advertising.

"We believe that the pattern of results in our study is due to differences in source credibility across the various ad sponsors and that advertising by PACs may lack credibility."
-end-
The full study is available at https://pubsonline.informs.org/stoken/default+domain/MKSC-PR-06-2018/full/10.1287/mksc.2017.1079.

About INFORMS and Marketing Science

Marketing Science is a premier peer-reviewed scholarly marketing journal focused on research using quantitative approaches to study all aspects of the interface between consumers and firms. It is published by INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. More information is available at http://www.informs.org or @informs.

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

Related Advertising Articles from Brightsurf:

Save it or spend it? Advertising decisions amid consumer word-of-mouth
Most people have seen or heard from a friend, neighbor or family member about a product or service they've used and how their experience was.

Television advertising limits can reduce childhood obesity, study concludes
Limiting the hours of television advertising for foods and beverages high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) could make a meaningful contribution to reducing childhood obesity, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Oliver Mytton of the University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues.

Association between chain restaurant advertising, obesity in adults
Researchers examined whether changes in chain restaurant advertising spending were associated with weight changes among adults across 370 counties in the United States.

UBCO researchers link advertising to uptick in youth vaping
UBC researchers are raising the alarm about the increase of vaping among teenagers and how e-cigarette marketing strategies target youth.

The prevention of childhood obesity would require stricter advertising regulations
Spain ranks fifth among European countries for childhood obesity. Sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks are consumed by 81% of Spanish children weekly.

Less advertising for high-calorie snacks on children's TV
The number of overweight children has increased significantly. Some food and beverage companies have signed a voluntary commitment at EU level to restrict advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children.

Advertising continues to assume mothers only use knowledge for domestic caring
Magazine adverts continue to tell mothers to put caring for their families front and centre - and encourage them to devote all their knowledge to protecting and caring for them rather than for their own benefit or professional advancement.

'Native advertising' builds credibility, not perceived as 'tricking' visitors
CATONSVILLE, MD, December 2, 2019 - The concept of ''native advertising'' has been in existence for as long as advertisements were designed to resemble the editorial content in newspapers and magazines.

Researchers call for industry regulation to stop 'photoshop' frenzy in advertising
In a newly published analysis of legal and regulatory strategies that may help combat rampant 'photoshopping' and the portrayal of unrealistic beauty standards in advertising, researchers from Harvard, Dickinson and Michigan State University College of Law are calling for industry regulation to curtail digital alteration of images in advertising.

High-density of alcohol outlets and advertising affect youth drinking
Alcohol use among Tanzanian youth is rising and the high density of alcohol selling outlets and alcohol advertisements coupled with low enforcement of minimum drinking age laws are likely facilitating this uptick.

Read More: Advertising News and Advertising Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.