Tracking Voter Reactions to the Television Advertising
Lynda Lee Kaid John C. Tedesco University of Oklahoma
Presidential candidates rely on television advertising as their best means of communicating directly with voters. Given a sufficiently large budget for production and buying of airtime, a presidential candidate can be certain that the desired message reaches a substantial number of voters. With improved use of new technologies, presidential candidates are even able to target their advertising messages, on a television market basis and on a more selective demographic basis, through cable and specialized distribution systems. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the 1996 presidential campaign Bill Clinton and Bob Dole spent more of their campaign budgets on electronic advertising than on any other aspect of their campaign communication ( Devlin, 1997).
Researchers have already established that the 1996 campaign was the most expensive and the most negative in history ( Devlin, 1997; Kaid, 1998). An expensive campaign is not necessarily an effective one; political advertising researchers have always been quick to point out that certainty and quantity of exposure do not always yield the desired result ( Atkin, Bowen, Nayman, & Sheinkopf, 1973). However, a large body of research substantiates that political television advertising can and does have effects, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, on candidate images, on voter intentions toward candidates, and on recall of issue messages ( Kaid, 1981, 1994, 1996a; Kaid & Chanslor, 1995; Kaid, Leland, & Whitney, 1992).
The research reported in this chapter attempts to assess how the 1996 advertising affected voters from a number of perspectives. The research