June 13, 2021

How Effective Are Ad Spending and Endorsements in Presidential Campaigns?

Ad spending during elections uses billions of dollars of American’s donated money, but how effective is it really? How can we be certain our money is going to effectively be a part of change?

Social media has quickly become one of the most popular ways to promote political ads.

“I don’t see as many ads as I do just posts from the candidates in general. I think now with the technology and people having social media, they already follow those candidates or they follow people that are endorsing those candidates,” said Kaitlyn Ozdych, a junior at the University of Tennessee.

Along with the candidates themselves, celebrities often post about the election. Some celebrities endorse certain candidates, while others just encourage Americans to vote.

 

Though these types of posts are trying to encourage people to go out and vote, they often don’t sway American’s opinions.

Carolyn Darke, a junior at UT, said that she voted not because of political ads, but because she felt it was her duty.

“If I didn’t want to vote in the first place, those types of things wouldn’t make me want to. It’s a waste of resources at that point.”

Ozdych disagreed, stating that though the ads didn’t sway her opinions on candidacy, they did affect her willingness to vote.

“Seeing how much of a difference this year can make, like seeing the ads and seeing endorsements…that helped me want to vote even more because I saw other people doing it.”

The Science Behind the Vote

A study conducted by Science Advance, however, confirmed the average effects of persuasive messages like political ads are small.

The study was held during the 2016 election in real time, and consisted of 49 different political advertisements in 59 unique experiments on 34,000 people. It concluded that when it comes to things as polarizing as the presidential election, opinions are hard to change.

Despite both studies and real life voters confirming their limited effects, candidates still pay for political advertisements.

According to npr.org, Biden and Trump have spent billions on the presidential campaigns for this year’s election – an historically expensive election.

Looking at the Other Side: How Can These Ads be Persuasive?

Despite studies deeming ads unnecessary, some young voters argue that they can be helpful.

“I see ads as a way for candidates to get out their ideas for the future, especially with the country going through some of the darkest times it’s been through in years,” said Ethan Cantrell, a junior at UT.

Cantrell also said that the ads got him more interested in the election itself, encouraging him to research the candidates.

“They helped me see which candidate best matched my own opinions.”

Ballots are still being counted as the election year is coming to an end. Only time will tell if the record-breaking 11 billion spent on the election this year was worth it.

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