Ad Advantage

Click here to download the PDF of the full paper.


Michael M. Franz and Travis N. Ridout (2010). Political Advertising and Persuasion in the 2004 and 2008 Presidential Elections, American Politics Research, 38, 303


“1,000-ad advantage across the entire campaign…(in a media market) resulted in about a 0.5 percentage point improvement in a candidate’s share of the vote in 2008.”


The 2008 presidential election was historic in many respects. The campaign included the first African American major-party candidate, and neither candidate was an incumbent president or vice president. In addition, one candidate took public funding and the other candidate did not. This latter disparity resulted in an imbalance of resources across the two campaigns, especially in the purchase of political advertising. But did that imbalance matter for who won? Did advertising move voters, and if so, by how much? This article examines patterns of presidential ad buys in 2008 and compares them with presidential ad buys in 2004. It also examines the impact of advertising on county-level vote returns in both years. The results demonstrate some important differences in advertising patterns across years, especially in terms of ad sponsorship and market-level advertising advantages. We also find significant and strong advertising persuasion effects in 2008.

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