American Political Science Review

Research Article

How Large and Long-lasting Are the Persuasive Effects of Televised Campaign Ads? Results from a Randomized Field Experiment

ALAN S. GERBERa1 c1, JAMES G. GIMPELa2 c2, DONALD P. GREENa3 c3 and DARON R. SHAWa4 c4

a1 Yale University

a2 University of Maryland

a3 Yale University

a4 University of Texas at Austin

Abstract

We report the results of the first large-scale experiment involving paid political advertising. During the opening months of a 2006 gubernatorial campaign, approximately $2 million of television and radio advertising on behalf of the incumbent candidate was deployed experimentally. In each experimental media market, the launch date and volume of television advertising were randomly assigned. In order to gauge movement in public opinion, a tracking poll conducted brief telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 registered voters each day and a brief follow-up one month after the conclusion of the television campaign. Results indicate that televised ads have strong but short-lived effects on voting preferences. The ephemeral nature of these effects is more consistent with psychological models of priming than with models of on-line processing.

Correspondence:

c1 Alan S. Gerber is Professor, Department of Political Science and Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, P.O. Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520 (alan.gerber@yale.edu).

c2 James G. Gimpel is Professor, Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742 (jgimpel@gvpt.umd.edu).

c3 Donald P. Green is Professor, Department of Political Science and Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, P.O. Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520 (donald.green@yale.edu).

c4 Daron R. Shaw is Professor, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin, University Station A1800, Austin, TX 78712 (dshaw@austin.utexas.edu).

Footnotes

The authors are grateful to David Carney and the Texans for Rick Perry Campaign for their willingness to conduct a randomized evaluation and to share their data with us. Special thanks go to Peter Aronow, who assisted with data analysis and manuscript preparation. The authors bear sole responsibility for any errors.

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