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Campaign Advertising and Democratic Citizenship

Authors

  • Paul Freedman,

  • Michael Franz,

  • Kenneth Goldstein


  • This research was funded by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. All advertising data used in this article are publicly available from the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project: http://www.polisci.wisc.edu/tvadvertising. Direct all correspondence to Paul Freedman.

Paul Freedman is Associate Professor of Politics, University of Virginia, Box 400787, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4787 (freedman@virginia.edu). Michael Franz is a graduate student of political science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 110 North Hall, 1050 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706 (mmfranz@polisci.wisc.edu). Kenneth Goldstein is Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 110 North Hall, 1050 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706 (goldstei@polisci.wisc.edu).

Abstract

Concern about the state of American democracy is a staple of political science and popular commentary. Critics warn that levels of citizen participation and political knowledge are disturbingly low and that seemingly ubiquitous political advertising is contributing to the problem. We argue that political advertising is rife with both informational and emotional content and actually contributes to a more informed, more engaged, and more participatory citizenry. With detailed advertising data from the 2000 election, we show that exposure to campaign advertising produces citizens who are more interested in the election, have more to say about the candidates, are more familiar with who is running, and ultimately are more likely to vote. Importantly, these effects are concentrated among those citizens who need it most: those with the lowest pre-existing levels of political information.

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