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Election Campaigns and Media Effects - Political Advertising and Media Effects, Conclusion

advertisements elections negative research

For most people living in established democracies and societies that are in transition to democracy, election campaigns are primarily experienced through the media. Politicians know that far more people turn to the media for information than turn out for political rallies in local town squares. The daily campaign activities are thus primarily designed to meet the constraints and deadlines of the major news outlets. Therefore, there are two important contexts to consider when thinking about the effects of the media in election campaigns. One is the context of the campaign or the potential media effect on the campaigns of candidates, which can be described as the institutional level of media effects. The other is the context of the potential media effect on individual voters or citizens, which can be described as media effects at the individual level.

Political Advertising and Media Effects

Although scholars and practitioners alike agree that political advertising is important for election campaigns, there is no clear agreement on the effects of political advertising on electoral outcomes. Political advertisements on television and radio count for much more in U.S. elections than in many other countries such as Great Britain, for example, where the purchase of broadcast advertising is prohibited and the forms of television advertisements are regulated. There are far more advertisements in U.S. elections than in elections abroad, and as Lynda Lee Kaid and Ann Johnston (1991) have shown, the percentages of negative advertisements in U.S. election campaigns has increased over the years. Negative advertisements take various forms; at the core they involve criticism of a candidate, a policy position, or past performance. An overview of research by Kaid (1999) has shown that exposure to advertisements does influence public perceptions of the candidates. However, a meta-analysis (i.e., an empirical study of all the studies published to date specifically on the effects of negative advertising) led Richard Lau and his colleagues (1999, p. 851) to question “why negative political advertisements have become so popular in practice when there is so little evidence that they work especially well.”

Despite these doubts on the effectiveness of such advertising, debate continues over the question of whether negative advertising mobilizes or demobilizes the electorate. For example, it has been argued that “going negative” actually discourages people from going to the polls to vote and diminishes confidence in the political system (Ansolabehere and Iyengar, 1995; Ansolabehere, Iyengar, and Simon, 1999), but analysis of similar data resulted in the view that such conclusions cannot be sustained (Wattenberg and Brians, 1999). Research by Steven Finkel and John Geer (1998) on the effects of attack advertisements have also cast doubt on the idea that they demo-bilize the electorate.

Research methods are often at the core of the debate, although different campaign settings, for example, whether it is a presidential, congressional, or local election, can also influence conclusions about the power of negative advertisements and negative information. Kim Kahn and Patrick Kenney (1999) showed that in the 1990 U.S. Senate elections, for example, voters were able to distinguish between “mudslinging” and “legitimate criticism,” and when the latter (but not the former) increased, citizens were more likely to vote. The effect was especially strong for those who had low interest in politics, little knowledge about politics, and lacked attachments to the main parties or described themselves as independents.

Conclusion

Much of what is now known about the media in election campaigns comes from research conducted in the United States. There is a considerable amount of scholarship in Germany on media content and its uses and effects in elections, as well as a growing body of literature in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, and The Netherlands. However, data remain extremely limited for many other advanced industrial societies. It has only been relatively recent that the topic has become the focus of scholarship in Latin America, largely because of the rise of television as a major source of political information, candidates’ strategic use of the news media, and the growth of public opinion polling in that region. In Russia, Eastern Europe, the new republics, and other societies in transition to democracy, research on elections and the media is still in its infancy.

The institutional contexts of elections in these other countries can be quite different from the United States. The main challenge for research on individual-level effects is to identify the contingent conditions under which effects occur. In other words, researchers need to identify the specific characteristics of media contents and media audiences that lead to specific types of effects, and they need to determine how the institutional contexts enhance or diminish these effects.

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over 4 years ago

all the candidates for election is always.,using..,media

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over 4 years ago

all the candidates for election is always.,using..,media

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over 4 years ago

all the candidates for election is always.,using..,media

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over 4 years ago

all the candidates for election is always.,using..,media

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almost 7 years ago

The two videos on Meg Whitman show the two sides of media bias. The first video on Whitman has music with a questioning, faultful aspect while the second videos music is warm and welcoming. Any person who sees just one of the videos would undoubtedly have a biased view on Whitman.

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almost 7 years ago

Media coverage of political candidates can have both positive and negative effects on elections. A majority of media features a form of mudslinging and can be misleading. Fortunately statistics show that when legitimate criticism increases, citizens are more likely to vote. Media provides a very biased view on candidates but it is also essential to inform American citizens who may not take the initiative to research the candidates on their own. When listening to media it is important to keep an open mind to the information you hear as well as to keep in mind the biased views of those airing the commercials you see on t.v.