Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 465-491

First online:

Does Political Advertising Persuade?

  • Michael M. FranzAffiliated withDepartment of Government and Legal Studies, Bowdoin College Email author 
  • , Travis N. RidoutAffiliated withPolitical Science, Washington State University

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Well over $1 billion was spent on televised political advertising in the U.S. in 2004. Given the ubiquity of the 30 second spot, one might presume that ads must affect viewers’ vote choices. Somewhat surprisingly, though, scholars have yet to make much progress in confirming this claim. In this paper, we leverage a comprehensive dataset that tracks political ads in the nation’s top media markets and a survey of presidential and U.S. Senate voters in 2004. We ask whether exposure to presidential and Senate advertising influences voters’ evaluations of candidates and the choices that they make at the ballot box. In the end, we find considerable evidence that advertising persuades—and that its impact varies depending on the characteristics of the viewer.


Political advertising Elections Campaign effects Persuasion