The Impact of Political Advertising on Knowledge, Internet Information Seeking, and Candidate Preference

Authors

  • Nicholas A. Valentino,

    Corresponding author
    1. Nicholas Valentino (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) is an associate professor of communications studies and political science, and research associate professor in the Center for Political Studies, at the University of Michigan.
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  • Vincent L. Hutchings,

    1. Vincent L. Hutchings (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) is an associate professor of political science and research associate professor in the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan.
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  • Dmitri Williams

    1. Dmitri Williams is a PhD candidate in communication studies at the University of Michigan
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regarding this article may be directed to the first author at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, 426 Thompson Street, P. O. Box 1248, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248; nvalenti@umich.edu.

Abstract

Previous research has suggested that exposure to political advertising is generally informative and may even reduce information gaps between the most and least aware in society, but does not produce large shifts in candidate preference. Drawing on extant models of opinion change, we predicted that the informational benefits of political ads would vary by level of awareness, such that the most aware would experience the largest gains, especially when they are asked to make inferences about issues not explicitly discussed in the ad. Further, we predicted that the most aware would use information in advertisements as a substitute for other kinds of information seeking, while the least aware would be relatively unmotivated to seek out new information, regardless of exposure. Finally, the least aware would be more susceptible to persuasion via ads than the most aware would be. Experimental evidence confirmed these predictions.

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