Page 1

American Behavioral Scientist

The Effects of Political Advertising on Young Voters Lynda Lee Kaid, Monica Postelnicu, Kristen Landreville, Hyun Jung Yun and Abby Gail LeGrange American Behavioral Scientist 2007; 50; 1137 DOI: 10.1177/0002764207300039 The online version of this article can be found at:

Published by:

Additional services and information for American Behavioral Scientist can be found at: Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations (this article cites 33 articles hosted on the SAGE Journals Online and HighWire Press platforms):

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 Š 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

The Effects of Political Advertising on Young Voters

American Behavioral Scientist Volume 50 Number 9 May 2007 1137-1151 © 2007 Sage Publications 10.1177/0002764207300039 hosted at

Lynda Lee Kaid Monica Postelnicu Kristen Landreville Hyun Jung Yun Abby Gail LeGrange University of Florida

Political advertising effects on candidate evaluations, issue recall, political cynicism, and gender differences are explored in this pretest–posttest examination of 764 young adult participants. Results show no major gender differences in evaluation of candidates. Participants reported learning more about Bush’s image and more about Kerry’s issues through the ads. Exposure to ads did not produce increased cynicism among the participants but significantly increased political information efficacy. Keywords: George W. Bush; John Kerry; political advertising; young voters; candidate image; campaign issues; agenda setting


oung voters were among the most targeted segments of the electorate during the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign. Political parties, nonprofit organizations, issue groups, mass media, student organizations, and even popular entertainers joined efforts to convince young people to show up at the polls. Engaging this traditionally apathetic public has become more essential in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, decided by only 500 votes and just barely half (51%) of all eligible voters (Federal Election Commission, 2004). Political advertising has the potential to serve as a valid source of information about the candidates during a political campaign. Numerous studies have shown that voters exposed to political ads on television retain knowledge and information about the candidates, such as their name, stance on issues, or image attributes (Atkin & Heald, 1976; Kaid, 2002; Martinelli & Chaffee, 1995; Valentino, Hutchings, & Williams, 2004). Exposure to political ads is also effective in influencing viewers’ evaluations of the candidates (Kahn & Geer, 1994; Kaid, Chanslor, & Hovind, 1992; Kaid & Sanders, 1978; Tinkham & Weaver-Lariscy, 1993) as well as voters’ perceptions of the political process in general and their political behavior (Ansolabehere & Iyengar,

Authors’ Note: Special thank you to UVote team members who assisted with data collection for the advertising experiment projects. 1137 Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1138 American Behavioral Scientist

1995; Kaid et al., 1992; Lemert, Wanta, & Lee, 1999). This article explores the effects of television political advertising on young voters.

Research and Theory on Advertising Effects Television political advertising was adopted in 1952 by Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign as a way of promoting his presidency to voters. During the past five decades, presidential candidates have devoted ever-higher amounts of their campaign budgets to produce and broadcast political spots. The 2004 presidential campaign set a new record for advertising spending (more than $600 million), a 235% increase compared to 2000 (Devlin, 2005).

Effects of Advertising Exposure on Candidate Image Evaluations The importance given by candidates and campaigns to political advertising has prompted substantial research about its effects. Even the earliest research on political advertising validated the candidates’ decisions to rely on this communication tool. Researchers have shown that television advertising is successful in conveying candidate messages to voters, overcoming selective exposure (Atkin, Bowen, Nayman, & Sheinkopf, 1973) and gaining attention from 70% of voters. One of the most important outcomes of this attention to political television ads may be the impact on voter evaluations of the candidates featured in the ads. Candidates make use of advertising to generate positive feelings among the electorate about their own qualities or to denigrate their opponents. Research has shown that advertising exposure can influence a voter’s evaluations of the candidates, either in a positive or negative direction. Kaid (1994, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003) conducted several experiments exposing college students as well as adult voters to spots from various presidential campaigns and concluded that exposure to ads can significantly change ratings of candidates. The change in candidate evaluations is determined by many factors, such as the channel on which the ad is shown (Kaid, 2002; Kaid & Postelnicu, 2005) or the content of the ad. For instance, issue-focused ads are more likely to trigger a positive attitude toward the candidate than image-focused ads, and nonattack ads are more likely to create support for the candidate than attack ads (Christ & Thorson, 1994; Kahn & Geer, 1994; Pinkleton, Um, & Weintraub Austin, 2002). Negative ads are successful in denigrating the candidate who is the target of the attacks (Johnson-Cartee & Copeland, 1989; Perloff & Kinsey, 1992) but may also result in a backlash effect against the candidate who makes the attack (Garramone, 1984). Regardless of the direction of the attitude provoked by the ad, mass communication scholars largely agree that television advertising makes an impact on voters’ perceptions of the candidate. There is evidence that people with lower interest in politics and with less information about a campaign are more likely to change their attitude

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1139

toward the candidates after viewing political ads on television (Cundy, 1986; Rothschild & Ray, 1974). Therefore, we expected political advertising to have a strong impact on young voters’ evaluations of the candidate, because this group of voters traditionally has lower levels of interest and involvement than older voters, leading to our first hypothesis: Hypothesis 1: Exposure to political television ads will significantly increase positive evaluations of candidates Bush and Kerry.

However, not all voters react the same to the presentation of a candidate in television advertising. Research has shown that the gender of the voter can make a difference in the reaction to political spots. For instance, findings have suggested that reactions to political ads mirror the gender gap identified in voting behavior. That is, women appear to evaluate Democratic presidential candidates more positively than men do, and men are more positive about Republican candidates (Kaid, 1994, 1998; Kaid & Tedesco, 1999). Although they did not find large differences between male and female voter reactions to candidate ads, Bystrom, Banwart, Kaid, and Robertson (2004) found some evidence that women respond more positively to positive campaign messages. In a broader, multicountry study, Kaid and Holtz-Bacha (2000) found that women tend to be generally more susceptible to televised political spots and rate presidential candidates higher after viewing. This research suggested our second hypothesis: Hypothesis 2: Women will evaluate the candidates significantly higher after advertising exposure than will men.

Effects of Political Advertising Exposure on Information Recall An extensive body of research supports the finding that exposure and attention to political advertising leads to increased voter knowledge about candidates and issues (Faber & Storey, 1984; Groenendyk & Valentino, 2002; Kaid & Sanders, 1978). Recall of information is particularly high after exposure to negative ads (Basil, Schooler, & Reeves, 1991; Johnson-Cartee & Copeland, 1989; Kahn & Kenney, 2000; Lang, 1991; Newhagen & Reeves, 1991). The amount of time spent in front of the TV set is another mediating factor of how much information from the ads people remember. Heavy TV viewers are more likely to recall seeing ads than people who watch television less than 3 hours daily. According to a recent poll, an average American adult spends a little more than 3 hours daily watching television (Yang, 2004). Recall is also directly linked to a series of other factors, such as one’s interest in the race (Atkin et al., 1973; Rothschild & Ray, 1974) or one’s attitudes toward politics (Christ & Thorson, 1994). A great deal of research has concentrated on identifying issue learning from political ad exposure, and findings suggest that issue learning from exposure to political

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1140 American Behavioral Scientist

ads is surprisingly high, even greater than issue learning from television news exposure (Brians & Wattenberg, 1996; Patterson & McClure, 1976; Zhao & Bleske, 1995) or even televised debates (Holbert, Benoit, Hansen, & Wen, 2002; Just, Crigler, & Wallach, 1990). Regardless of the multitude of factors that influence recall and information retention, it is generally recognized that political ads have the potential to provide viewers with knowledge about the candidates and the campaign. One of the consequences of acquiring information from such sources is that viewers may change their issue agenda to match the issues discussed in the ads (Herrnson & Patterson, 2000; Roberts, 1992; West, 1993). Issue ads are effective in making policy issues more salient to audiences, but image ads are equally successful in increasing the salience of candidates’ attributes, a process called second-level agenda setting (McCombs, Lopez-Escobar, & Llamas, 2000). These prior findings on the successful communication of issue information and the agenda-setting effects of political ad exposure led to the next two hypotheses tested in this study: Hypothesis 3: Exposure to political television ads will result in higher levels of candidate image learning than issue learning. Hypothesis 4: Exposure to political television ads will have a significant agenda-setting effect, resulting in changes in the issues that respondents judge as most important.

Ad Exposure and Political System Effects Apart from affecting viewers’ evaluations of candidates and issues, political advertising can trigger more complex emotions and attitudes. Ansolabehere and Iyengar (1995) believe that attack ads in particular contribute to increasing political cynicism among voters, together with television (Putnam, 1995) and strategic campaign coverage by the media (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997). Rahn and Hirshorn (1999) found that exposure to negative advertising altered young people’s political attitudes, although it did not significantly affect their desire to vote. On the contrary, young people with high levels of political efficacy felt stimulated in their political beliefs after viewing negative ads. However, Kaid, McKinney, and Tedesco (2000) found young voters were more cynical after exposure to political spots in the 1996 campaign. The connection between negative advertising, political apathy, and cynicism has not been clearly confirmed by other studies (Garramone, Atkin, Pinkleton, & Cole, 1990). Pinkleton et al. (2002) found no evidence for such claims, whereas Kaid and Postelnicu (2005) actually found that undergraduate college voters expressed lower levels of political cynicism after exposure to a mixture of positive and negative ads. These findings led to the fifth hypothesis: Hypothesis 5: Exposure to political television ads will result in no significant change in political cynicism levels for young citizens.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1141

Getting young citizens to become involved in the political process is not an easy task. Delli Carpini (2000) painted a pessimistic portrait of Americans younger than 30: Overall, they are more cynical than the older population, less interested in public affairs, less likely to register or to vote, and significantly less knowledgeable about politics. Several surveys found that this lack of information about candidates, parties, the government, and the act of voting is the number one cause of political apathy (Declare Yourself, 2003; National Association of Secretaries of State [NASS], 1999). Respondents reported that they need to know the candidates’ stances on issues, their personal qualities, and political competence level before making an informed decision to vote. Lack of this type of information translates into feelings of low political efficacy that leads to apathy (Declare Yourself, 2003; NASS, 1999). Young voters appear to be aware of their low knowledge levels, and the Third Millennium study of young voters’ motivations for voting and nonvoting found that the young generation often cited as a reason for not voting in 2000 the fact that they did not feel they have “enough time or information” (Murphy, 2000). In their work on citizen engagement in 1996 and 2000, Kaid et al. (2000; Kaid, McKinney, & Tedesco, 2004) have found that young voters’ low levels of political information efficacy is a significant cause of nonvoting. However, Kaid, Landreville, Postelnicu, and Martin (2005) found that exposure to both television ads and debates can increase young voters’ feelings of political information efficacy. Research has not yet explored whether there are gender differences in political information efficacy. These concerns led to our final hypothesis and related research question: Hypothesis 6: Exposure to the political television ads will significantly increase feelings of political information efficacy. Research Question 1: Will men experience significantly higher levels of information efficacy after political advertising exposure than women?

Method Participants An experimental design was used to test the above hypotheses. Participants were 764 undergraduate students from 13 different universities1 in the United States. Experiments took place at the same time in all 13 locations, 1 week before the November 2004 Election Day. The total sample was composed of 44% males and 56% females, with an average age of 21. Their party affiliation was 35% Republican, 41% Democrat, and 24% Independent or affiliated with other parties. Both the gender and the party identification distributions are typical for American college students. The large number of participants from diverse geographic locations covering both battleground and nonbattleground states further guaranteed that the sample is representative of college voters nationwide.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1142 American Behavioral Scientist

Procedure On arrival at the various experiment locations, participants were asked to fill out a pretest questionnaire. After finishing the questionnaire, students were shown a collection of 10 political television ads (5 ads sponsored by George Bush and 5 by John Kerry, alternated by candidate). These ads were typical of those running in the campaign during the past few weeks.2 Exposure to this ad stimulus was followed by asking participants to fill out a posttest questionnaire.

Measuring Instruments Both pretest and posttest questionnaires contained measures of participants’ evaluations of the candidates and their levels of political cynicism and information efficacy. Evaluations of Bush and Kerry were measured using a feeling thermometer scale ranging from 0 (cool) to 100 (warm) like the one traditionally used by the National Election Studies to measure attitudes toward the candidates (Rosenstone, Kinder, Miller, & the National Election Studies, 1997). Candidate evaluations were also measured using a 12-item semantic differential scale3 developed for measuring candidate image and used for nearly four decades as a measure of candidate image (Kaid, 2004). The 12-item image scale achieved high reliability when used as an index with Cronbach’s alpha reliability levels of +.90 in the pretest and +.89 in the posttest for Bush, and +.87 in the pretest and +.92 in the posttest for Kerry. Several other measures were used to evaluate participants’ levels of political cynicism and information efficacy. Political cynicism was measured with an eight-item index4 with Cronbach’s alpha reliability of +.70 in the pretest and +.83 in the posttest. Information efficacy was measured with a four-item index,5 and Cronbach’s alpha levels were + .86 in the pretest and +.88 in the posttest.

Results Effects of Ad Exposure on Candidate Image The first hypothesis predicted that exposure to the television ads would result in a higher positive evaluation of both candidates. Table 1 provides evidence that this hypothesis was not supported. Using the semantic differential scale of 12 adjectives to evaluate the candidates, young respondents gave Bush a composite mean rating of 53.9 in the pretest and 53.6 in the posttest. Responses to Kerry were similar in the overall sample with a 53.7 pretest and a 53.5 posttest rating. Neither difference was statistically significant. The second hypothesis stated that women would rate the candidates more positively after ad exposure than would men. This hypothesis was also rejected. As Table 1 shows, there was no significant difference between men’s and women’s evaluations of Bush or Kerry before the ads were shown, and exposure did not result in any major changes for either candidate.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1143

Table 1 Effect of Advertising Exposure on Image Evaluations of Candidates (N = 764) Bush

Overall sample Males (n = 336) Females (n = 428) Democrats (n = 311) Republicans (n = 267) Independent/Other (n = 186)






53.9 54.4 53.6 44.55 66.80 51.29

53.6 54.3 53.2 44.50 66.21 51.07

53.7 52.6 54.4 60.68 44.64 54.76

53.3 52.5 53.9 61.43 43.05a 53.99

a. t test indicates difference between pretest and posttest ratings is significant at p < .05.

Table 1 also shows that partisan affiliation of the respondents had little relationship to postexposure changes in evaluations for George W. Bush. However, viewing the spots did have a negative effect on Kerry’s image ratings among Republican respondents who rated Kerry at 44.64 in the pretest but gave him a significantly lower rating of 43.05 in the posttest, t = 2.54, df = 265, p = .01. Those who identified themselves as Independent or sympathetic to another political party did not change their evaluations of either candidate after viewing.

Effects of Exposure on Issue and Image Learning The third hypothesis that predicted exposure to the television ads would result in more learning about the candidates’ issues than about their image qualities received mixed support. Respondents were asked to indicate if they had learned a great deal (7) or very little (1) about the issues from the ads they saw for each candidate. They were also asked to similarly respond to questions about how much they learned about the personal qualities of Bush and Kerry. Table 2 indicates that participants did believe they had learned significantly more about the personal qualities of Bush (M = 3.95, SD = 1.87) than they did about the issues (M = 3.27, SD = 1.85) from his ads, t = –9.62, df = 762, p = .001. However, the opposite was true for Kerry. Participants felt they had learned more about the issues (M = 3.49, SD = 1.85) than about Kerry’s personal qualities (M = 3.26, SD = 1.69) from his ads, t = –3.45, df = 762, p = .001. This learning pattern is also clear when comparing the learning about each candidate. Thus, Kerry’s issue learning score (3.49) was significantly higher than Bush’s issue score (3.27), t = –4.24, df = 762, p = .001. Likewise, Bush’s personal qualities learning score (3.95) is higher than the personal image score for Kerry (3.27), t = –9.67, df = 762, p = .001. This superiority for personal qualities learning from the Bush ads is also apparent when comparing the actual number of personal qualities that respondents listed in an open-ended question that asked them to list specific personal qualities they

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1144 American Behavioral Scientist

Table 2 Learning and Recall of Issues and Image Characteristics From Ads (N = 764)

Learn about issues Learn personal qualities Number of image items recalled Number of positive items Number of negative items



3.27 3.95b 1.47 0.76 0.50

3.49a 3.26a,b 1.25a 0.52a 0.52

a. t test shows difference between Bush and Kerry is significant at p < .01. b. t test shows difference between issues and personal qualities is significant at p < .001.

recalled about each candidate. Table 2 shows that respondents recalled a mean number of 1.47 items for Bush but only 1.25 for Kerry, t = 3.51, df = 762, p = .001. Of these personal qualities, Bush also received significantly more positive mentions (M = 0.76, SD = 2.38) than did Kerry (M = 0.52, SD = 2.10), t = 2.93, df = 762, p = .003. There was no significant difference in the number of negative items recalled about each candidate.

Agenda-Setting Effects of Ad Exposure The fourth hypothesis predicted that exposure to the candidatesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; television ads would have an agenda-setting effect, resulting in a change in the issues that young citizens judged important. This hypothesis was not confirmed for the overall sample in this study. As Table 3 shows, young citizens found the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, education, terrorism, taxes, foreign policy, and the environment to be the most important issues (in that order) in the pretest. The posttest agenda of issues was highly correlated (Spearmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rank order correlation = +.91). However, it is interesting to note that exposure to the ads did have an effect from a gender comparison standpoint. As Table 3 shows, men and women did not have significantly correlated issue agendas before viewing the ads (rs = .64), viewing the ads brought women and men into alignment on the issues they judged most important, and their posttest agendas were, like the overall sample, significantly correlated (rs = .82). A major aspect of this agenda realignment was the fact that after exposure to the ads, women had an elevated concern about the importance of the economy, which remained at the top spot in both the pretest and posttest issue agendas for men.

Advertising Exposure and Political Cynicism The fifth hypothesis posited that exposure to political advertising would not affect the levels of cynicism in young citizens. This hypothesis was confirmed. On the

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 Š 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1145

Table 3 Agenda-Setting Effects of Exposure to Political Ads Total

Rank order of issues Economy Iraq War Health Education Terrorism Taxes Foreign policy Environment Spearman correlations:









1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

2 3 1 5 4 6 7 8

4 2 1 3 2 6 7 8

2 3 1 4 6 4 7 8

1 2 5 3 3 7 6 8

1 2 3 5 4 6 7 8

.91* Before ⎯⎯→ After

.87* Before ⎯⎯→ After .64 Before ⎯⎯→ Before .82* After ⎯⎯→ After

.87* Before ⎯⎯→ After

*indicates that the Spearman’s rho is significant at p < .05.

composite cynicism scale, respondents scored at almost identical levels on the pretest and the posttest. Young women appear to be more cynical than young men, but exposure to the ads did not affect their cynicism levels or the differential level between the genders.

Ad Exposure and Information Efficacy The last hypothesis suggested that exposure to the candidates’ ads would result in increased feelings of information efficacy for the young citizens. This hypothesis was measured by comparing the pretest and posttest responses to respondents’ perceptions of their confidence in their understanding of politics and their information about the campaign. Table 4 shows that exposure to the television ads does, indeed, increase young respondents’ feelings of information efficacy, confirming this hypothesis. On the pretest information efficacy scale, the mean score was 13.83 (SD = 4.15), which increased significantly to a mean of 14.46 (SD = 3.73) in the posttest, t = –8.60, df = 762, p = .001. The related research question queried whether men had a higher level of information efficacy after viewing the ads than before. As Table 4 indicates, men do experience higher levels of political information efficacy after ad viewing (M = 15.03, SD = 3.74) than do women (M = 14.06, SD = 3.68), t = 3.54, df = 762, p = .001.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1146 American Behavioral Scientist

Table 4 Effects of Advertising Exposure on Information Efficacy and Cynicism (N = 764)

Information efficacy Overall Males Females Cynicism level Overall Males Females



13.83 14.45a 13.33a

14.46b 15.03b 14.04b

25.6 25.1 25.9a

25.6 24.8 26.2a

a. t test shows difference between males and females is significant at p < .001. b. t test shows difference between pretest and posttest is significant at p < .03.

However, whereas men and women do have different levels of information efficacy, it is also important to note that exposure to the television ads significantly increases the information efficacy levels for both men and women.

Discussion With the dominance of television as a political news source, image can mean everything. Political advertising is just one way candidates can shape their images. Past research on political ads has shown that candidate image ratings can improve after viewing ads (Kaid, 2002). However, positive evaluations of Bush and Kerry did not increase after watching the ads in this study, and gender did not influence candidate evaluations. One possible explanation is that a few days before Election Day, when the experiment was performed, most voters had made their voting choices, they knew what qualities they preferred in a candidate, and they were unlikely to be influenced by ads. With regard to gender, women did not evaluate the candidates any more favorably than men overall. However, there were some differences between the effects of the ads on men and women in regard to some of the specific scales used to measure candidate image evaluations. For instance, men found Bush significantly more honest (M = 4.32, SD = 2.09 on the posttest compared to M = 4.08, SD = 2.37 on the pretest), t = –3.21, df = 336, p = .001. Exposure to the ads also resulted in men’s finding Kerry significantly less sincere in the posttest (M = 4.32, SD = 1.85) than in the pretest (M = 4.46, SD = 1.66), t = 1.73, df = 333, p = .05. On the other hand, women found both Bush and Kerry less qualified after viewing than before. However, women found Bush significantly more aggressive after viewing (M = 5.30, SD = 1.46) than before (M = 5.06, SD = 1.59), t = –3.72, df = 426, p = .001.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1147

In addition to finding Kerry less qualified, women also found him less sophisticated (t = 4.12, df = 426, p = .001) and less friendly (t = 2.60, df = 426, p = .01) after seeing the spots. One demographic variable that yielded differences in candidate image evaluations was political party affiliation. Among Democrats, Kerry’s image rating increased after viewing the ads; conversely, among Republicans, Kerry’s image rating decreased; and there were no changes for voters with other or no affiliation. Bush’s ads elicited no differences across parties. It is possible that participants acknowledged that the incumbent’s image was solidified, yet the challenger’s image was more flexible in either a positive or negative direction. Exposure to Kerry’s ads inspired Democrats to evaluate him more favorably and encouraged Republicans to dislike him more. Considering the mixed results on image and issue learning, the candidate ads seemed to have a greater influence in this area. Participants learned more about personal qualities than issues from the Bush ads and more about issues than personal qualities from the Kerry ads. Also, Kerry’s issue learning score was significantly higher than Bush’s issue learning score and vice versa for image learning scores. Yet more evidence for this finding is the number of positive comments about the candidates’ personal qualities: Bush had significantly more positive mentions than did Kerry. This finding on image and issue learning could relate to the fact that Kerry was often described as a “policy wonk” who knew the issues but was somewhat boring, whereas Bush was described as a laid-back, regular guy from Texas who knew how to get things done but was rather unsophisticated. Bush had more to gain if he ran on his image and personal qualities than if he emphasized the Iraq war or the economy. Kerry had more to gain if he could use his thorough knowledge of policy than if he emphasized his personality. Thus, the candidate advertising was appropriate to each candidate’s strong points, and it seems participants’ reactions reflected these candidate strategies. There were few differences in the learning or recall scores of the candidates based on gender. However, female respondents said they learned significantly more about the personal qualities of George Bush (M = 4.07, SD = 1.89) from the ads than did males (M = 3.78, SD = 1.82), t = –2.07, df = 762, p = .04. Another aspect of issue influence from political ads is their potential agendasetting effect. For these young voters, exposure to ads did not have a significant agendasetting effect. The issues ranked before and after ad exposure were similar. Again, it is important to keep in mind the experiment was conducted only days before the election. The campaigns were coming to a close, and most voters could probably name the most discussed issues of the campaign. When asked to list the five most important issues facing the nation, it is possible many participants relied on their recollection of the most talked-about issues. This could be why exposure to candidate advertising did not significantly change their opinions—the candidates’ message and agenda and/or the overall media message and agenda had already been absorbed. It

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1148 American Behavioral Scientist

is interesting that women’s agendas were more influenced by ad exposure. Before ad exposure, women and men differed significantly on their agendas. For example, the economy was ranked the number one issue by men and the fourth issue by women. However, after ad exposure, whereas men kept the economy as their number one issue, the issue jumped to number two on the women’s ranking. This could reflect the lower levels of political information efficacy for women, because it appears women are more easily influenced by the ads’ issue agendas. Critics of political advertising claim that ads hurt democracy because voters do not gain any valuable information from ads and the ads only make voters more cynical of the election process. This study shows otherwise: Young voters’ feelings of political information efficacy significantly increased, and general political cynicism levels did not significantly change. It could be that young voters have become so accustomed to political advertising that they accept it as a legitimate source of information. Young voters seem satisfied with ads and feel comfortable using the information in ads for decision making. Additionally, both men and women exhibit higher levels in political information efficacy after viewing the ads. However, women showed somewhat lower levels of political information efficacy than men. On a similar note, women seem more cynical than men. A possible reason for this is the traditional masculine qualities of politics and the recent emergence of women in politics. There are fewer female role models in the political world, and women political reporters are not as abundant as men. Without a reflection of themselves in the political sphere, women may feel more alienated from politics and become more cynical and less confident in their political information efficacy.

Notes 1. The 13 universities and the number of participants in each location were as follows: University of Florida (n = 113), University of Missouri (n = 88), Virginia Tech (n = 47), Iowa State (n = 123), University of Kansas (n = 80), University of Colorado, Denver (n = 35), University of Akron (n = 18), St. Cloud State University (n = 27), Texas A&M Commerce (n = 30), University of Oklahoma (n = 23), University of New Haven (n = 31), Consumes River College (n = 16), and University of Texas at San Antonio (n = 133). 2. The ads were obtained from the National Journal’s campaign ad archive and were retrieved October 22, 2004, from 3. The 12 bipolar adjective pairs used were qualified–unqualified, sophisticated–unsophisticated, honest– dishonest, believable–unbelievable, successful–unsuccessful, attractive–unattractive, friendly–unfriendly, sincere–insincere, calm–excitable, aggressive–unaggressive, strong–weak, active–inactive. 4. The eight-item cynicism index was composed of the following measures: (a) Whether I vote or not has no influence on what politicians do, (b) One never knows what politicians really think, (c) People like me don’t have any say about what the government does, (d) Sometimes politics and government seem so complicated that a person like me can’t really understand what’s going on, (e) One can be confident that politicians will always do the right thing, (f) Politicians often quickly forget their election promises after a political campaign is over, (g) Politicians are more interested in power than in what the people think, and (h) One cannot always trust what politicians say. 5. The four-item information efficacy index was composed of the following measures: (a) I consider myself well qualified to participate in politics, (b) I think that I am better informed about politics and

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1149

government than most people, (c) I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the important political issues facing our country, and (d) If a friend asked me about the presidential election, I feel I would have enough information to help my friend figure out who to vote for.

References Ansolabehere, S., & Iyengar, S. (1995). Going negative: How political advertisements shrink and polarize the electorate. New York: Free Press. Atkin, C. K., Bowen, L., Nayman, O. B., & Sheinkopf, K. G. (1973). Quality versus quantity in televised political ads. Public Opinion Quarterly, 37, 209-224. Atkin, C. K., & Heald, G. (1976). Effects of political advertising. Public Opinion Quarterly, 40, 216-228. Basil, M., Schooler, C., & Reeves, B. (1991). Positive and negative political advertising: Effectiveness of ads and perceptions of candidates. In F. Biocca (Ed.), Television and political advertising (Vol. 1, pp. 245-262). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Brians, C. L., & Wattenberg, M. P. (1996). Campaign issue knowledge and salience: Comparing reception from TV commercials, TV news, and newspapers. American Journal of Political Science, 40, 172-193. Bystrom, D. G., Banwart, M. C., Kaid, L. L., & Robertson, T. (2004). Gender and candidate communication: Videostyle, webstyle, newstyle. New York: Routledge. Cappella, J. N., & Jamieson, K. H. (1997). Spiral of cynicism: The press and the public good. New York: Oxford University Press. Christ, W. G., & Thorson, E. (1994). Do attitudes toward political advertising affect information processing of televised political commercials? Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 38(3), 251-271. Cundy, D. T. (1986). Political commercials and candidate image: The effects can be substantial. In L. L. Kaid, D. Nimmo, & K. R. Sanders (Eds.), New perspectives on political advertising (pp. 210-234). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Declare Yourself. (2003). Major national survey shows increased promise, new strategies for increasing youth vote. Youth Vote 2004 survey shows narrow window of opportunity to engage young voters; points to “political incompetence” as major barrier to voting. Retrieved on June 20, 2005, from http:// Delli Carpini, M. X. (2000). Youth, civic engagement, and the new information environment. Political Communication, 17, 341-349. Devlin, L. P. (2005). Contrasts in presidential campaign commercials of 2004. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(2), 279-313. Faber, R. J., & Storey, M. C. (1984). Recall of information from political advertising. Journal of Advertising, 13, 39-44. Federal Election Commission. (2004). Data drawn from Congressional Research Service reports, Election Data Services Inc., and state election offices. Retrieved January 6, 2006, from http://www Garramone, G. M. (1984). Voter responses to negative political ads. Journalism Quarterly, 61, 250-259. Garramone, G. M., Atkin, C. K., Pinkleton, B. E., & Cole, R. T. (1990). Effects of negative advertising on the political process. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 34, 299-311. Groenendyk, E. W., & Valentino, N. A. (2002). Of dark clouds and silver linings: Effects of exposure to issue versus candidate advertising on persuasion, information retention, and issue salience. Communication Research, 29(3), 295-319. Herrnson, P. S., & Patterson, K. D. (2000). Agenda-setting and campaign advertising in congressional elections. In J. A. Thurber, C. J. Nelson, & D. A. Dulio (Eds.), Crowded airways: Campaign advertising in elections (pp. 96-112). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Holbert, R. L., Benoit, W. L., Hansen, G. J., & Wen, W.-C. (2002). The role of communication in the formation of an issue-based citizenry. Communication Monographs, 69, 296-310.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

1150 American Behavioral Scientist

Johnson-Cartee, K. S., & Copeland, G. A. (1989). Southern votersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; reaction to negative political ads in 1986. Journalism Quarterly, 66(4), 888-893. Just, M., Crigler, A., & Wallach, L. (1990). Thirty seconds or thirty minutes: What viewers learn from spot advertisements and candidate debates. Journal of Communication, 40, 120-133. Kahn, K. F., & Geer, J. G. (1994). Creating impressions: An experimental investigation of political advertising on television. Political Behavior, 16(1), 93-116 Kahn, K. F., & Kenney, P. J. (2000). How negative campaigning enhances knowledge of Senate elections. In J. A. Thurber, C. J. Nelson, & D. A. Dulio (Eds.), Crowded airwaves: Campaign advertising in elections (pp. 65-95). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Kaid, L. L. (1994). Political advertising in the 1992 campaign. In R. E. Denton Jr. (Ed.), The 1992 presidential campaign (pp. 111-127). Westport, CT: Praeger. Kaid, L. L. (1998). Videostyle and the effects of the 1996 presidential campaign advertising. In R. E. Denton Jr. (Ed.), The 1996 presidential campaign: A communication perspective (pp. 143-159). Westport, CT: Praeger. Kaid, L. L. (2001). Technodistortions and effects of the 2000 political advertising. American Behavioral Scientist, 44(12), 2370-2378. Kaid, L. L. (2002). Political advertising and information seeking: Comparing exposure via traditional and Internet channels. Journal of Advertising, 31(1), 27-36. Kaid, L. L. (2003). Effects of political information in the 2000 presidential campaign: Comparing traditional television and Internet exposure. American Behavioral Scientist, 46(5), 677-689. Kaid, L. L. (2004). Measuring candidate images with semantic differentials. In K. L. Hacker (Ed.), Presidential candidate images (pp. 231-236). Westport, CT: Praeger. Kaid, L. L., Chanslor, M., & Hovind, M. (1992). The influence of program and commercial type on political advertising effectiveness. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 36, 303-320. Kaid, L. L., & Holtz-Bacha, C. (2000). Gender differences in response to televised political broadcasts: A multicountry comparison. Harvard Journal of International Press/Politics, 5(2), 17-29. Kaid, L. L., Landreville, K. D., Postelnicu, M., & Martin, J. D. (2005, May). Enhancing information efficacy for young voters: The effects of political advertising and debates. Paper presented at the International Communication Association Convention, New York. Kaid, L. L., McKinney, M. S., & Tedesco, J. C. (2000). Civic dialogue in the 1996 presidential campaign: Candidate, media, and public voices. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton. Kaid, L. L., McKinney, M. S., & Tedesco, J. C. (2004, November). Information efficacy and young voters. Paper presented at the National Communication Association Conference, Chicago. Kaid, L. L., & Postelnicu, M. (2005). Political advertising and responses of young voters: Comparison of traditional television and Internet messages. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(2), 265-278. Kaid, L. L., & Sanders, K. R. (1978). Political television commercials: An experimental study of the type and length. Communication Research, 5, 57-70. Kaid, L. L., & Tedesco, J. C. (1999). Presidential candidate presentation: Videostyle in the 1996 presidential spots. In L. L. Kaid & D. G. Bystrom (Eds.), The electronic election: Perspectives on the 1996 campaign communication (pp. 209-221). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Lang, A. (1991). Emotion, formal features, and memory for televised political advertisements. In F. Biocca (Ed.), Television and political advertising (Vol. 1, pp. 221-243). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Lemert, J. B., Wanta, W., & Lee, T. (1999). Party identification and negative advertising in a U.S. Senate election. Journal of Communication, 49, 123-134. Martinelli, K. A., & Chaffee, S. H. (1995). Measuring new-voter learning via three channels of political information. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 72, 18-32. McCombs, M., Lopez-Escobar, E., & Llamas, J. P. (2000). Setting the agenda of attributes in the 1996 Spanish general election. Journal of Communication, 50(2), 77-92. Murphy, K. (2000, April 25). Report: Young voters, candidates share blame for apathy. Kansas City Star. Retrieved January 10, 2004, from

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 Š 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

Kaid et al. / Advertising Effects on Young Voters 1151

National Association of Secretaries of State. (1999). New millennium survey: American youth attitudes on politics, citizenship, government, and voting. Retrieved on October 11, 2005, from http://www Newhagen, J. E., & Reeves, B. (1991). Emotion and memory responses for negative political advertising: A study of television commercials used in the 1988 presidential election. In F. Biocca (Ed.), Television and political advertising (Vol. 1, pp. 197-220). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Patterson, T. E., & McClure, R. D. (1976). The unseeing eye: Myth of television power in politics. New York: Putnam. Perloff, R. M., & Kinsey, D. (1992). Political advertising as seen by consultants and journalists. Journal of Advertising Research, 36, 53-60. Pinkleton, B. E., Um, N.-H., & Weintraub Austin, E. (2002). An exploration of the effects of negative advertising on political decision making. Journal of Advertising, 31(1), 13-25. Putnam, R. D. (1995). Turning in, turning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in America. PS: Political Science and Politics, 28, 664-683. Rahn, W. M., & Hirshorn, R. M. (1999). Political advertising and public mood: A study of childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s political orientations. Political Communication, 16, 387-407. Roberts, M. (1992). Predicting voter behavior via the agenda-setting tradition. Journalism Quarterly, 69(4), 878-892. Rosenstone, S. J., Kinder, D. R., Miller, W. E., & the National Election Studies. (1997). American national election study 1996: Pre- and post-election survey [Computer file]. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies (Producer) and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (Distributor). Rothschild, M. L., & Ray, M. L. (1974, July). Involvement and political advertising effect: An exploratory experiment. Communication Research, 1, 264-285. Tinkham, S. F., & Weaver-Lariscy, R. A. (1993). A diagnostic approach to assessing the impact of negative political television commercials. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 37(4), 377-400. Valentino, N. A., Hutchings, V. L., & Williams, D. (2004). The impact of political advertising on knowledge, Internet information seeking, and preference. Journal of Communication, 54(2), 337-354. West, D. M. (1993). Air wars: Television advertising in election campaigns, 1952-1992. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly. Yang, S. (2004). Americans spend more energy and time watching TV than on exercise, finds new study. UC Berkeley News. Retrieved December 2, 2005, from 2004/03/10_amtv.shtml Zhao, X., & Bleske, G. L. (1995). Measurement effects in comparing voter learning from television news and campaign advertisements. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 72(1), 72-83.

Lynda Lee Kaid (PhD, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) is a professor of telecommunication at the University of Florida. Monica Postelnicu (PhD, University of Florida) is an assistant professor in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Kristen Landreville was a graduate student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the time this study was conducted. Hyun Jung Yun is a graduate student in the College of Journalism and Communications and the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. Abby Gail LeGrange is a graduate student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

Downloaded from by Juan Pardo on November 14, 2007 Š 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.


Lynda Lee Kaid, Monica Postelnicu, Kristen Landreville, Hyun Jung Yun and Abby Y oung voters were among the most targeted segments of the e...