Media Advertising and Ballot Initiatives: An Experimental Analysis
Spending on political advertising increases with every election cycle, not only for congressional or presidential candidates, but also for state-level ballot initiatives. There is little research in marketing, however, on the effectiveness of political advertising at this level. In this study, we conduct an experimental analysis of advertisements used during the 2008 campaign to mandate new animal welfare standards in California (Proposition 2). Using subjects' willingness to pay for cage-free eggs as a proxy for their likely voting behavior, we investigate whether advertising provides real information to likely voters, and thus sharpens their existing attitudes toward the issue, or whether advertising can indeed change preferences. We find that advertising in support of Proposition 2 was more effective in raising subjects' willingness to pay for cage-free eggs than ads in opposition were in reducing it, but we also find that ads in support of the measure reduce the dispersion of preferences and thus polarize attitudes toward the initiative. More generally, political ads are found to contain considerably more "hype" than "real information" in the sense of Johnson and Myatt (2006).
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