Negative Advertising and Campaign Strategy



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Negative Advertising and Campaign Strategy:

An Analysis of Negative Advertising in the 2000 Presidential Election

Molly McCartney

Creighton University




Introduction

An important aspect of political science is the analysis of political campaigns. One of the most influential areas of political campaigning is televised political advertising. The way a candidate chooses to relay a message to the American public (i.e., negative political advertisements, positive political advertisements, etc.) is almost as impactful as where (i.e., swing states, small television markets, etc.) that candidate airs his/her message. For example, in the 2000 election, Bush ran a very strong negative campaign in South Carolina, but not in Texas. This leads us to wonder why a candidate’s campaign strategy is formulated the way it is. In order to gain a better understanding of the behaviors involved in television political advertising, an important question is, “In the 2000 Presidential Election, why did George W Bush choose to run negative television advertisements in some media markets and not others?”

This question is worth addressing for many reasons. First, with the number of negative ads on the rise, it is important to gain an understanding into why some candidates find negative ads to be such a useful part of political campaigning. Second, many voters report dislike for negative ads, so it is important to analyze why candidates would choose to run advertisements to which the voting public often has a negative response. Third, most candidates do not run the same advertisements in all DMAs. Because of this, it is important to analyze why candidates choose to run negative ads in some DMAs and not in others.

Negative political advertising is an area of study that many political scientists struggle to understand. The research on the topic is often skewed, with some political scientists finding that negative ads are beneficial to a candidate, and other political scientists finding that negative ads have a detrimental effect on a candidate’s campaign. It is common knowledge among US citizens that most people are discouraged by negative ads. Because of this, it would seem that most candidates would refrain from this kind of advertising. However, because candidates do continue to use negative ads in their campaigns, we will examine the literature on this topic and hopefully find a common thread regarding negative advertisements in political campaigning.

An answer to the question “In the 2000 Presidential Election, why did George W Bush choose to run negative television advertisements in some media markets and not others?” could be very important to political science. By understanding why the President chose to run negative advertisements in some areas and not others in the 2000 Presidential Election, we could better understand campaign strategy as a whole. By doing so, we will be able to predict how candidates will behave in political campaigns.

Literature Review


The literature on negative advertising is split into three smaller groups:

  1. How do people respond to negative ads?

  2. Do negative ads work?

  3. How does negative advertising relate to campaign strategy and strategic decision-making in a campaign?

In order to gain a better understanding of the literature, it is important to examine all three of these areas and their relation to negative advertising.

In the 1988 Presidential Election, US citizens were exposed to one of the most famous negative ad campaigns in history. The Willie Horton ad generated so much controversy that many point to it as the beginning of the negative ad phenomenon. The ad focused on Willie Horton, a convicted felon from Massachusetts who had been released for a weekend while serving a life sentence for murder. Horton was released as part of a furlough program intended to help rehabilitate convicted felons. However, during his short time out of prison, he committed rape and armed robbery. Democratic nominee and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was attacked in the now infamous “Willie Horton ad” for his support of the furlough program that allowed the felon to commit such horrible crimes on his short weekend release (wikipedia, 2005).

Because there is such a fervent debate over whether or not negative ads are “fair,” it is important to examine the impressions left by negative advertisements such as the Willie Horton ad. The impressions left by these ads are important to note not only for observers of the ads, but also to “those who create and air political spots” (Kahn and Geer, 1994. p. 97). There have been numerous studies and articles speculating why negative ads have become such a popular method of campaigning in the United States. Unfortunately, many of these studies are skewed, with some political scientists finding that negative ads are beneficial to a candidate, and other political scientists arguing that negative ads have a detrimental effect on a candidate’s campaign as well as on voter turnout. Evidently, as Kahn and Geer agreed, “it is not clear how much political ads actually do influence the public’s views” (Kahn and Geer, 1994. p. 93).

As stated by aforementioned research of Kahn and Geer, “given that the 30 second spot is a centerpiece of the modern campaign, we need to increase our understanding of the impact of political campaigning” (Kahn and Geer, 2004. p. 110). In order to this, we must first examine the uniqueness of negative ads. In much of the literature regarding political campaigning, researchers make distinctions between positive and negative ads.

Negative ads are defined as “attack ads” that focus on a candidate’s opponent, rather than on the candidate him/herself. Positive ads, on the other hand, focus on the candidate running the ad and his/her abilities or stance on issues. Researchers further the distinctions between negative and positive ads by separating negative advertisements as ads that attack an opponent’s personal characteristics and/or those ads that attack a competitor’s stand on issues. As stated by Kahn and Geer, “for most state and national elections, contenders must decide what type of commercials to air on television. Among their decisions are whether to develop “positive” or “negative” spots and whether they want to stress the candidate’s views on issues or the contender’s personal characteristics” (Kahn and Geer, 1994. p. 96). Personal negative ads may include attacks on the competitor’s family life, education, past legal problems, financial mishaps, etc. Issue negative ads, on the other hand, attack an opponent’s stance on key issues of an election (i.e., stand on tax reform, abortion, public healthcare, etc.).

How do people respond to negative ads?

According to Ansolabehere and Iyengar, citizens who view negative advertisements often say that they are less likely to vote because of the discouragement imbedded by the ad (Ansolabehere and Iyengar, 1995). This, of course, raises the question, “do some politicians purposely run negative ads in order to discourage a group of voters from showing up to the polls?” It would seem that a savvy politician may use negative ads in an area where he/she generally “loses the vote” in order to discourage voters from going to the polls and likely casting votes for his/her opponent, thus increasing his/her chances of victory. However, according to Wattenberg and Brians, “it makes little sense to limit the goal of campaign ads to influence turnout, especially since scholars have found that television advertising actually contributes to political learning” (Wattenberg and Brians, 1999. p. 891). When an ad increases political education, voter turnout usually increases. It would seem illogical, the researchers argue, for a politician to try and use a negative ad as a discourager for voter turnout, because ads of any kind usually increase voter education, which in turn increases voter turnout. Further, the researchers give the example that in a campaign where 100 million people are expected to vote (with hypothetically 53% of the prospective voters supporting the Democrat and 47% of the prospective voters supporting the Republican), “a negative ad strategy would have to cause more than 6 million Democrats to stay home, but by changing the minds of roughly 3 billion Democratic supporters, the Republicans would come out on top” (Ansolabehere and Iyengar, 1999. p. 891). Clearly, it is more effective for a candidate to use an ad campaign to gain votes, rather than to discourage voters from going to the polls and casting a vote for the opponent.

The previously stated research offers differing views of political campaigns. By understanding the distinctions made between positive and negative advertisements (and the distinctions made between the different kinds of positive and negative advertisements, respectively) and how the public feels about negative advertisements, we are better able to examine whether or not these negative ads are effective in their purpose (whether it be to increase voter turnout, or to help gain votes for a particular candidate).

Do Negative Ads Work?

Before we can ask the question, “do negative ads work?” we must first examine what is meant by “work”. The effectiveness of a campaign is generally based on how successful the campaign was in gaining votes for a particular candidate. However, due to the skewed nature of research on negative advertising, we will also discuss voter turnout as a measure of effectiveness.

After the 1996 presidential race, Republican candidate Bob Dole was asked why he thought voter turnout was so low in the election. Dole cited negative campaigning as the culprit, and said that “people get turned off with negative ads” (November 8, 1996, Letterman show). Common sense would tell us that negative advertising does not work, as it likely tends to alienate viewers from a motivation to go out and cast a ballot, regardless of who wins that ballot. In fact, this idea is supported by the demobilization theory of political advertising. According to Freedman and Goldstein, “advocates of the demobilization hypothesis claim that negative ads undermine political efficacy and make it less likely that citizens will find their way to the polls” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p. 1189). According to the research of Ansolabehere and Iyengar, people who were exposed to positive ads had an increased likelihood to vote. Conversely, the researchers found that people who view negative ads are less likely to cast a ballot (Ansolabehere and Iyengar, 1995). Many contemporary political scientists shun the demobilization theory and the research of Ansolabehere and Iyengar. Recent research has pointed away from negative advertisements as a source of blame regarding low voter turnout. In 1992, for example, “a recollection of negative campaign ads was actually associated with significantly higher turnout, and in 1996 there was no significant relationship in either direction” (Wattenberg and Brians, 1999. p. 892). Further, the following table contains information from the National Election Survey from 1992 and 1996. It shows that viewers who complained about negative ads actually had a turnout rate of 6% higher than those who did not complain about these ads. This clearly strips credibility from the demobilization theory supported by researchers like Ansolabehere and Iyengar.


TABLE 1. Percentage Turnout in 1992 and 1996, by Comments about Recall of Positive and Negative Political Ads for Presidential Candidates

1992 1996

Did not mention negative

or positive ads 72.2 (562) 69.7 (577)

Said something about a

negative ad 82.5 (681) 76.4 (288)

Said something about a



specific negative ad 84.1 (321) 77.4 (230)

Said something about a

positive ad 82.2 (275) 82.1 (128)

Said something about a



specific positive ad 82.0 (245) 81.6 (120)

Source: 1992 and 1996 NES

This research is reinforced by Finkel and Geer, who found that “the tone of the advertising campaign in a particular year election had no effect on aggregate rates of turnout, nor on individual-level measures of turnout” (Finkel and Geer, 1988. p. 588). Freedman and Goldstein agree with Finkel and Geer that the demobilizing hypothesis is invalid. These researchers found that negative ads actually appeared to stimulate voter turnout, not depress it. Further, Freedman and Goldstein went on to state that “those who found the candidates’ commercials to be generally negative had a greater probability of voting than those who were more sanguine about the tone of the ads” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p.1202). This research reinforced the mobilization theory that negative advertising does not correlate with voter turnout. An explanation for the debunking of the demobilization theory was been proposed by Wattenberg and Brians who argued that, “it is easy to imagine an experimental subject who feels contempt for politics immediately after being exposed to a negative ad and states s/he will not vote. Yet, when election day arrives, the same person may decide to vote after assessing whether the difference between the candidates is worth the trouble of participating” (Wattenberg and Brians, 1999. p. 896).

According to the stimulation hypothesis of Finkel and Geer, negative advertising can actually increase voter turnout. This is the case for several reasons:

1) Negative advertising provides a significant amount of relevant information

2) Negative information may be given greater weight than positive messages

3) Negative commercials may produce stronger affective response, leading to heightened enthusiasm for candidates, greater engagement with the election, and possibly increased motivation to learn more about the candidates.


(Finkel and Geer, 1998. p. 577).

In essence, negative advertisements may actually “help raise the perceived stakes in a campaign” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p. 1190). For example, if a voter sees a particularly critical ad, he or she may feel that the criticism warrants some sort of attention in the campaign; the negative ad may “send a message that something of substance is at stake in the election, that its outcome matters, and that this is a choice voters should care about” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p. 1190).

With a better understanding of the demobilization/mobilization theories, we can now turn to another aspect of negative advertising. It seems that the purpose of a negative advertising campaign is to discourage viewers from voting for a certain candidate. However, oftentimes viewers already have preconceived opinions of candidates already. As suggested by Bernard, Lazarsfeld and McPhee, these opinions are usually based off previously-held partisan identification and/or sociological characteristics (Bernard, Lazarsfeld and McPhee, 1954). It would seem rational, therefore, that negative advertisements would not have a tremendous impact on the viewers with these previously-held views of a candidate. Because of this, research in the area of political campaigns has been largely ignored or marginalized in the past. Many political scientists believed that “individual votes and election outcomes [could] be predicted without accounting for the campaign” (Hillygus and Jackman, 2003. p. 584). However, recent declining levels of party identification have fostered a resurgence of research in the area of political campaigns (Hillygus and Jackman, 2003). Since this revival, the interest in the area of political advertising, particularly how it affects preconceived opinions of candidates, has also increased. As stated by Kahn and Geer, “one might argue that the central question concerning political advertising is how ads alter existing impressions of candidates” (Kahn and Geer, 1994. p. 95).

According to Angus Campbell, the “mobilizing” effect of negative ads is described as the effectiveness the ad has in getting a viewer to vote (usually for a particular candidate). He argues that voters who said they have voted in the past will vote again, regardless of ad recall. This argument correlates with the idea that those with a predisposed partisan tie will not be swayed by negative ads. Campbell goes on to argue that nonvoters who recall seeing an ad (either positive or negative) are more likely to vote (Campbell, 1960). In summary, older research often points to the demobilization theory in relation to negative ads, while newer research argues that the mobilization theory is more accurate.

Hillygus and Jackman agree with Campbell. They found that support for a candidate is largely influenced by the political predispositions held by an individual, and is only marginally impacted by campaign activities, such as conventions, debates or advertisements (Hillygus and Jackman, 2003). Further, they found that an individual’s predispositions will have a great impact on how he/she reacts to the campaign activities. For example, a Republican viewing a negative ad run by a Democratic candidate will likely have a more negative impression of the ad than a Democrat watching the same ad. Hillygus and Jackman furthered this idea by arguing that not only will “Democrats react differently to an event than will a Republican or Independent; undecided Democrats will react differently than will Bush Democrats, Gore Democrats, and so on” (Hillygus and Jackman, 2003. p. 590).

When Kahn and Geer researched negative political advertising, their findings had a unique quality. In 1990, the two researchers conducted a survey of a 303 student Introduction to American Politics class at Arizona State University. The students were shown a tape of the NBC program “Cheers”, including commercials. Some of the commercials included actual political advertisements the researchers had chosen, and the tape had no evidence of being altered. The subjects were told that the researchers were studying viewer reactions to prime-time television programming, in order to shift the focus from the political ads to the television program. From their research, Kahn and Geer deducted that negative advertisements that directly attack the traits of a candidate’s opponent were the least effective spot. This was as opposed to commercials of negative issues, positive issues, or positive traits (Kahn and Geer, 1994). The uniqueness of the study lies in the fact that the subjects were more tolerant of attack ads when they focused on specific issues, instead of personality traits. Further, the negative issue ads that provided evidence to support the attack were more effective than those that did not. As previously stated, the ads that criticized the opponent’s personal traits or lifestyle choices were found to be counterproductive and led to negative impressions of the attacker, rather than of the opponent being attacked (Kahn and Geer, 1994).

With a better understanding of how negative advertisements alter preconceived views of a candidate (or, in this case, do not alter those views), we can now examine how negative advertising impacts impressions of unknown candidates. Past research has suggested that negative ads are often remembered better than positive ads (Garramone, 1984). However, it is not clear whether negative ads create more favorable impressions. According to Kahn and Geer, political ads do not necessarily create favorable impressions of an unknown candidate (Kahn and Geer, 1994). The researchers suggest that unknown candidates should start their campaign with positive ads, due to the often controversial effect of negative ads.

Why Do Negative Ads Run In Some Places and Not Others?

In order to understand why negative ads run in some places and not others, we need to look at the literature on campaign strategy and strategic decision-making that helps lead to a successful campaign. Unfortunately, there is very little research on the relationship between campaign strategy and negative advertising. Most of the research in this area is focused on how the media reacts to a candidate and how the candidate is “framed” by the press (Flowers, Haynes and Crespin, 2003). The research is mostly concerned with the way that a candidate can be affected by the way the press portrays him/her and how easily a candidate can gain access to the press for events such as press conferences and public announcements.

There was some research, however, that was focused on campaign strategy and negative advertising. Kahn and Geer found that negative ads became less effective when coupled with an opponent’s negative ads (Kahn and Geer, 1994). For this reason, we could speculate that candidates may run negative ads where an opponent is running negative ads in order to diminish the effectiveness of the opponent’s initial ad. Likewise, a candidate may run a negative ad in an area where an opponent is not running negative ads in order to increase the ad’s effectiveness.

According to Freedman and Goldstein, exposure to television ads is a function of two things: “the frequency with which an advertisement is aired in a particular media market and the quantity of television viewing by a particular respondent” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p. 1191). They go on to point out that when television viewing and the volume of advertising increase, the probability of exposure rises. Obviously, if a person watches television every minute of every day, he or she has no likelihood of seeing a particular ad if it is not aired in his/her media market.

Flowers, Haynes and Crespin found that regarding the strategy of a candidate to win an election, he/she will chose a messaging tactic that “attempts to upset the existing ranking and shift the balance of the race by slowing the momentum of the lead candidate” (Flowers, Haynes and Crespin, 2003. p. 260). While the researchers do not relate this to negative advertising, it is fair to assume that running negative advertisements would be able to “slow the momentum” of a candidate by pointing out flaws of an opponent. Further, if the negative ad garners enough attention and helps shift votes to the candidate running the ad (as was previously cited as a possibility), the negative ad could help “upset the existing ranking.” Accordingly, we can assume that campaign strategy is certainly tied into the decision to run negative ads.

An important aspect of campaign strategy is the weighing of costs against benefits. As we have learned throughout the aforementioned research, negative campaigning has clear drawbacks. However, it is the job of a campaign strategist to decide if the benefits of negative ads will outweigh these drawbacks enough to make them worthwhile. In 2002, David Damore argued that negative campaigning may provide candidates with an opportunity to control their own, as well as their opponents’ messages (Damore, 2002). For example, if a candidate chooses to run an attack ad, they can be almost certain that their opponent will respond to the ad. In this sense, a candidate can “make” an opponent focus on an issue or topic, thus “controlling” the opponent’s messages. This can be seen as a benefit for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the obvious advantage of being able to formulate the direction the campaign. Another advantage of this campaign strategy of negative advertising is that “going negative can provide candidates with a means of undermining their opponents support” (Damore, 2002. p. 671) by forcing an opponent to focus on an issue (in response to an attack ad) that may not have been on his/her agenda prior to when the negative ad was aired. Further, research has shown that voters respond unfavorably to candidates that “jump around” in issues, addressing a number of issues, rather than staying strongly focused on just a handful of topics (Damore, 2002). By forcing an opponent to respond to a negative ad, a candidate may be able to make his/her challenger “jump around”, and thusly lose support.

Another important issue to examine as far as where candidates choose to run negative ads relates to voter turnout. Almost any political scientist will cite education, strength of partisanship, campaign interest, religious beliefs, and age (among other things) as factors relating to voter turnout. Perhaps candidates choose to run negative ads based on a DMA’s strength of partisanship, average voter age, etc. Freedman and Goldstein focused their research on the effects of education, gender, race, etc. with the exposure to negative advertisements. They then used this research to study the effects on voter turnout. The researchers found that “the effects of negative ads are positive” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p. 1200). The researchers summarized that they believe that exposure to campaign ads, both positive and negative, have a generally positive impact. However, they stress that “it is primarily the negative spots that have a mobilizing effect on voters” (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999. p. 1200).

The final, and perhaps most obvious, issue to examine regarding campaign strategy and negative ads is the competitiveness of an election. Numerous researchers agree that strategic decisions made for campaigns often depend on the naturally competitive nature of elections. For years, research has supported the notion that candidates use their resources based on strategic decisions. Namely, candidates will use their resources in ways that will best increase their chances of winning. As we have already discussed, candidates often use television advertisements (in this case, negative ads) to garner attention and votes. It would follow, therefore, that in a more competitive race, a candidate would be more likely to run negative advertisements, as the necessity for votes in these areas are crucial. In his 1972 book, David Adamany agrees with this idea and identifies the positive relationship between competition and campaign expenditures (Adamany, 1972).

More recent research points to competitiveness as a reason for increases in the number of ads, as well. In his 1999 article, Daron Shaw examined the Electoral College campaigning strategies between 1988 and 1996. He determined that when competitiveness of an election decreases, so does political advertising. Shaw cited the 1996 election as an example: when it became clear that Dole was “out of the running” in a market, the political advertisements for Dole decreased dramatically in that DMA. By the same token, Shaw argued that if Dole or Clinton were considered a “sure thing” in a DMA, they did not run as many advertisements in these markets (Shaw, 1999).

Further, in an October 2004 interview with USA Today, well-known political science researcher Ken Goldstein argued that examining TV advertising is the best indicator of how candidates view their chances. In essence, he argues that candidates are more likely to run ads in markets where they feel that their chances of winning could be jeopardized based on competitiveness with another candidate (Memmett, 2004). Goldstein continues this argument in his book co-authored by Joel Rivlin entitled Political Advertising in the 2000 Elections, where the researchers argue that when a race is more competitive, the number of advertisements (in this case, negative ads) will increase dramatically (Goldstein & Rivlin, 2003).

In the 1948 Truman-Dewey Presidential campaign, the candidates went through the entire campaign without once referring to his opponent by name (McCullough 1992, p. 670). It is certain that political campaigning will never return to the “wholesome” ways of the Truman-Dewey contest. Because of this dramatic change in political campaigning, it is important to examine the impacts of specifically negative campaigns. By gaining a better understanding of the impacts of these campaigns, we can examine why candidates seem to fall back on negative advertising, especially when the viewing public often view these kinds of ads as mean-spirited or unethical. Further, it is important to understand why candidates choose to run these negative ads in some media markets, while refraining from doing so in other markets.

Hypothesis
Little research has been done regarding why candidates choose certain areas to run negative ads, and not others. For this reason, I can only make speculations. As previously stated, certain factors such as competitiveness of race, education, strength of partisanship, campaign interest, religious beliefs, and age (among other things) as are often cited as having a direct relationship to voter turnout. My speculations stem from a more specified relation between these factors and voter turnout, and negative ad campaigns.

Based on all this research, I hypothesize that in the 2000 election, Bush chose to run more negative ads in DMAs where the race was more competitive (specifically, in markets where one candidate had between 40-60 percent of the vote).

In essence, I argue that there is a relationship between negative ads and competitiveness: the tighter the race in a DMA, the greater the likelihood that this was an area in which Bush ran negative ads.

I believe that my hypothesis that Bush chose to run negative ads in DMAs with tighter races makes sense because it is widely agreed that one of the most important aspects of a presidential race is competitiveness; a candidate is unlikely to waste money and effort on a market that is clearly going to be a sure win for either candidate. For example, it would be fruitless for Bush to have spent thousands of dollars on negative ads in Washington, D.C. as this DMA is one of the most liberal markets in the country. This market was a “sure win” for the democratic candidate.

However, if Bush was competing with Gore in a “close” market (where one candidate was reported to have between 40-60% of the vote), he would be more likely to run negative ads there because it would be more likely that he would be able to either tip the scales in favor of himself, or to solidify the vote even more. Because of the competitive nature of elections, and the important role competitiveness plays in presidential elections, I propose the hypothesis that Bush chose to run more negative ads in DMAs where the race was more competitive (specifically, in markets where one candidate had between 40-60 percent of the vote).

I expect that my two variables (negative ads and competitiveness of markets) will have a direct relation, or covariation. I anticipate that when there is a tighter race in a DMA, there will also be a higher number of negative ads run by Bush. I also believe that the two variables are directly and causally related. I believe that Bush’s campaign choice to run negative ads is dependent on how tight the race is in the respective market. In other words, the negative ads were run because of the competitiveness of the market; a market did not become a “tight market” because of the number negative ads run there. I don’t believe that there is a matter of non-spuriousness where a third variable explains high levels of both negative ads and competition.

Another independent variable that I would have liked to examine is the number of independent or undecided voters in each DMA. Based off the research of Kahn and Geer (1994), which argues that negative advertisements are effective, it would seem likely for a candidate to run negative ads in these states that contain a large number of mismatched partisans, undecided voters, or Independents. Freedman and Goldstein researched the hypothesis that negative ads have a demobilizing effect for Independents. They found, however, that there was no sort of demobilizing phenomenon associated with negative ad campaigns and Independent voters (Freedman and Goldstein, 1999).

Kahn and Geer found that negative ads became less effective when coupled with an opponent’s negative ads (Kahn and Geer, 1994). For this reason, we could further speculate that candidates may run negative ads where an opponent is running negative ads in order to diminish the effectiveness of the opponent’s initial ad. Likewise, a candidate may run a negative ad in an area where an opponent is not running negative ads in order to increase the ad’s effectiveness.

Unfortunately, there is virtually no way to acquire information on how many independent or undecided reside in DMAs, or even in different counties for that matter. For this reason, I must gauge this information by examining how “tight” races are in each county. In this analysis, 50% of the vote would be the most competitive possible race. As the vote totals diverge from 50 in either direction, then the race in that DMA is less competitive. Therefore, I assume that Bush ran ads in areas where the races were the most competitive. By doing this, I am assuming that many DMAs with “tight” races are competitive because of a large number of independent (and therefore “swayable”) voters in these areas.

Additionally, as previously stated, one of the most important aspects of a presidential race is competitiveness; a candidate is unlikely to waste money and effort on a market that is clearly going to be a sure win for either candidate. Because of the competitive nature of elections, and the important role competitiveness plays in presidential elections, I propose the hypothesis that Bush chose to run more negative ads in DMAs where the race was more competitive (specifically, in markets where one candidate had between 40-60 percent of the vote).

I also believe that one of the ways Bush gauged the competitiveness of a DMA was by examining the results of past elections. Specifically, I hypothesize that if a market had a “tight race” in 1996, Bush would be more likely to run negative ads in these DMAs in 2000.


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