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It's About Time: The Lifespan of Information Effects in a Multiweek Campaign


  • An earlier version of this article appeared in my dissertation that received the 2008 Best Dissertation Award from the American Political Science Association Organized Section on Political Psychology, and earlier versions were presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Political Behavior Working Group. I am immeasurably grateful to Jeff Mondak for insightful feedback on this project since its inception in 2004. Also, the final version of this article is stronger due to helpful comments and suggestions from Jim Kuklinski, Brian Gaines, Tom Rudolph, Sergio Wals, John Hibbing, Erik Tillman, Beth Theiss-Morse, Mike Wagner, the AJPS editor, and the anonymous reviewers. Thanks to Jamie Druckman, Milton Lodge, and Charles Taber for their feedback on very early drafts. All of the data necessary to replicate the analyses found in this article are accessible at

Dona-Gene Mitchell is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska, 524 Oldfather Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588–0328 (


I advance a theoretical and empirical framework that puts time and thus the temporal dynamics of candidate evaluation front and center in order to advance our understanding of the lifespan of information effects while enhancing the external validity of our experimental approaches. With these temporal properties in mind, I designed a “panel experiment” with research conducted over 12 weeks. This represents the first experimental approach to combine control over information exposure with attention to information processing throughout the course of a multiweek campaign. Against the backdrop of partisanship, empirical tests assess the ability of transient exposure to issue and character information to produce effects that endure beyond the moment the information is encountered either via memory-based or on-line processes. Findings reveal a remarkably limited role for enduring information effects and suggest a “rapid displacement” model of information processing where new information quickly displaces the accumulated stockpile of old information.