So this week I’m going to talk about something that I actually did for another class. I’m in a class this semester that’s essentially about the societal effects of mass communication, and we all had to conduct a study about a topic of our choosing. My group decided to do our project on political advertising and it’s effects on news credibility. We wanted to see if political advertisements would drive down the credibility of news sites. In order to do this we originally set up a 2 by 4 experiment, we had an article about Obama and one about Romney, and we alternated the ads that were shown to respondents, so the stimuli was one of the following either an Obama or Romney article with a Positive Romney ad, Negative Obama ad, Positive Obama ad, or Negative Romney ad.
What we found from doing this study was relatively interesting if a little predictable. In all of the measures we had tested for, which included article credibility, attitude toward the article, attitude toward the ad, perception of the candidate, and voting influence, we found that in every measure the Obama ads (positive Obama, negative Romney) fared better than the Romney ads (positive Romney, negative Obama). We found statistically significant results, meaning that in every measure there were more positive feelings toward the article, the ad, the candidate, even voting influence was more positive for the president.
The thing that we found in this study, which I found most interesting because we weren’t even looking for it, was the effect that negative ads had on readers’ perceptions of not only the article, but also the candidate, the ad, and every other measure we had tested for. So what do these findings mean for political communication? Well, for starters, it helps to be the president, in all measures the president was viewed more positively. However these results may be due to the fact that UNC is a fairly liberal campus in a fairly liberal county. As for the findings related to negative advertising, it’s very simple, it’s better not to run negative ads in these elections because they harm the perceptions of constituents. And this isn’t just something that we’ve found in our study, but something that has been found relatively consistently. For instance, in a study by Sharyne Merritt, she found that negative advertising left constituents disliking both the ad sponsor and the person the ad attacked. So I think we can safely say that negative ads probably shouldn’t be used in political campaigns.
I think that this is where the UNC J-School really excels, two separate classes and I’ve found something in one class that applies to another. Seeing some the theories I learned about in Talk Politics come to life in a study that I conducted was amazing.