Identifying the Persuasive Effects of Presidential Advertising


  • Author order is reverse-alphabetical; both authors contributed fully to this work. Earlier versions of this article circulated under the title “Uncovering the Persuasive Effects of Presidential Advertising.” We thank Larry Bartels, Barry Burden, Bob Erikson, Michael Hagen, D. Sunshine Hillygus, Richard Johnston, Jon Krasno, Skip Lupia, David Moore, Becky Morton, David Nickerson, Adam Simon, Lynn Vavreck, Chris Wlezien, John Zaller, and the reviewers, as well as seminar participants at Columbia, Dartmouth, NYU, UCLA, and Yale, for assistance and helpful comments. Appendices, a replication archive, and additional analyses discussed in the text are available at

Gregory A. Huber is associate professor of Political Science, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, PO Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520-8209 ( Kevin Arceneaux is assistant professor of Political Science, Institute for Public Affairs, Faculty Affiliate, Temple University, 453 Gladfelter Hall, 1115 W. Berks St., Philadelphia, PA 19122 (


Do presidential campaign advertisements mobilize, inform, or persuade citizens? To answer this question we exploit a natural experiment, the accidental treatment of some individuals living in nonbattleground states during the 2000 presidential election to either high levels or one-sided barrages of campaign advertisements simply because they resided in a media market adjoining a competitive state. We isolate the effects of advertising by matching records of locally broadcast presidential advertising with the opinions of National Annenberg Election Survey respondents living in these uncontested states. This approach remedies the observed correlation between advertising and both other campaign activities and previous election outcomes. In contrast to previous research, we find little evidence that citizens are mobilized by or learn from presidential advertisements, but strong evidence that they are persuaded by them. We also consider the causal mechanisms that facilitate persuasion and investigate whether some individuals are more susceptible to persuasion than others.