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Abstract

Considerable controversy surrounds public information campaigns: government-directed and sponsored efforts to communicate to large numbers of citizens in order to achieve a policy result, or what might be called government propaganda. We analyze the use of campaigns as policy instruments in three ways: (1) effectiveness in achieving substantive outcomes; (2) political benefits for public officials; and (3) consequences for democratic processes. Our review of 100 campaigns from these three perspectives reveals significant advantages and disadvantages of using campaigns in practice. We conclude that the advantages of public information campaigns justify their use as policy intruments when used appropriately and with care to mitigate the disadvantages.