In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Juliana Fernandes of the University of Miami explores the downside of negative political ads.
Juliana Fernandes is an assistant professor of strategic communication at the University of Miami where her research interests include the impact of affective advertising, international political communication, and social media and online communication. Her most recent work examines the effects of negative political advertising and message repetition on candidate evaluation. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Florida.
Dr. Juliana Fernandes – Negative Political Ads
We have all had our share of negative political ads. The 2012 presidential election surpassed the total number of ads aired during the 2008 campaign. Clearly, candidates believe that negative political advertising is an effective tool to communicate with voters. According to the latest reports, 61 percent of all Obama ad spending has been negative compared with 71 percent of Romney’s. But do these negative ads affect the way people evaluate the candidates?
My latest study investigated the effects of repetition of negative political advertising on candidate assessment. Participants in the study were exposed to one, three, or five repetitions of a negative political ad embedded in a TV show. The findings show that when the ad was presented a maximum of three times during the show, and when the interval between ad repetitions was small, opinion of the candidate sponsoring the ad improved. Yet when the ad was presented as much as five times, and frequently, a “backlash effect was observed, so that opinion of the sponsoring candidate actually declined and opinion of the attacked candidate increased.
Interestingly, increasing the interval between ad repetitions, within television programming, improved opinion of the candidate sponsoring the ad, even if it was repeated many times. These results suggest that negative ads are sometimes effective, but they become ineffective if repeated too many times. The results also show that the ads can be more effective when candidates adopt a schedule strategy of spacing out their ads on television.