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Advertising Effects in Presidential Elections


  • Gordon, Brett R.

    (Columbia University)

  • Hartmann, Wesley R.

    (Stanford University)


We estimate advertising effects in the context of presidential elections. This setting overcomes many data challenges in previous advertising studies, while arguably providing one of the most interesting empirical settings to study advertising's effects. The four-year presidential election cycle facilitates measurement in two ways. First, the gap between elections depreciates past advertising stocks such that large advertising investments are concentrated within relatively short periods. Second, the lack of political advertising between elections allows lagged advertising prices to serve as instruments that are safely independent of candidates' current advertising choices. To further aid estimation, the winner-take-all nature of the electoral college generates broad variation in advertising levels across states. We analyze the data using an aggregate discrete choice approach with extensive fixed effects at the party-market level to control for unobservable cross-sectional factors that might be correlated with advertising, outcomes, and instruments. The results indicate significant positive effects of advertising exposures for the 2000 and 2004 general elections. Advertising elasticities are smaller than are typical for branded goods, yet significant enough to shift election outcomes. For example, if advertising were set to zero and all other factors held constant, three states' electoral votes would have changed parties in 2000, leading to a different president.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon, Brett R. & Hartmann, Wesley R., 2011. "Advertising Effects in Presidential Elections," Research Papers 2080, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:2080

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    Cited by:

    1. Hunt Allcott & Matthew Gentzkow, 2017. "Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election," NBER Working Papers 23089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Brett R. Gordon & Wesley R. Hartmann, 2016. "Advertising competition in presidential elections," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 1-40, March.
    3. Michael Sinkinson & Amanda Starc, 2015. "Ask Your Doctor? Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals," NBER Working Papers 21045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Brett Gordon & Mitchell Lovett & Ron Shachar & Kevin Arceneaux & Sridhar Moorthy & Michael Peress & Akshay Rao & Subrata Sen & David Soberman & Oleg Urminsky, 2012. "Marketing and politics: Models, behavior, and policy implications," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 391-403, June.
    5. Panova, Elena, 2015. "A passion for voting," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 44-65.
    6. Aizawa, Naoki & Kim, You Suk, 2015. "Advertising and Risk Selection in Health Insurance Markets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-101, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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