Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 561–584 | Cite as

It’s All in the Name: Source Cue Ambiguity and the Persuasive Appeal of Campaign Ads

  • Christopher Weber
  • Johanna Dunaway
  • Tyler Johnson
Original Paper

Abstract

As strategies for campaign political advertising become more complex, there remains much to learn about how ad characteristics shape voter reactions to political messages. Drawing from existing literature on source credibility, we expect ad sponsorship will have meaningful effects on voter reactions to political advertisements. We test this by using an original experiment, where we expose a sample of student and non-student participants to equivalent ads and vary only the paid sponsor disclaimer at the end of the message. The only thing that differs across stimuli is whether a political candidate, a known interest group, or an unknown interest group sponsors the advertisement. Following exposure to one of these ads, participants complete a posttest battery of questions measuring the persuasiveness of the message, source credibility, and message legitimacy. We find that ads sponsored by unknown interest groups are more persuasive than those sponsored by candidates or known interest groups, and persuasion is mediated by perceived credibility of the source. We conclude by discussing our findings and their implications for our understanding of contemporary campaigns.

Keywords

Framing Information shortcuts Heuristics Persuasion Source credibility Source cues 

References

  1. Aiken, L., & West, S. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  2. Alvarez, R. M. (1997). Information and elections. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  3. Andreoli, V., & Worchel, S. (1978). Effects of media, communicator and message position on attitude change. Public Opinion Quarterly, 42, 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arceneaux, K. (2010). The benefits of experimental methods for the study of campaign effects. Political Communication, 27(2), 199–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arceneaux, K., & Kolodny, R. (2009). Educating the least informed: Group endorsements in a grassroots campaign. American Journal of Political Science, 53(4), 755–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aronson, E., Turner, J., & Carlsmith, M. (1963). Communicator credibility and communicator discrepancy as determinants of opinion change. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 31–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boatright, R. G., Malbin, M. J., Rozell, M. J., Skinner, R. M., & Wilcox, C. (2003). BCRA’s impact on interest groups and advocacy organizations. In M. J. Malbin (Ed.), Life after reform: When the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act meets politics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  8. Brady, H. E., & Sniderman, P. M. (1985). Attitude attribution: A group basis for political reasoning. American Political Science Review, 79, 1061–1078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brewer, P., & Gross, K. (2005). Values, framing, and citizens’ thoughts about policy issues: Effects on content and quantity. Political Psychology, 26(6), 929–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, G. L. (2003). Party over policy: The dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 808–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Conover, P. J., & Feldman, S. (1989). Candidate perception in an ambiguous world: Campaigns, cues, and inference processes. American Political Science Review, 33(4), 912–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Druckman, J. (2001a). On the limits of framing effects: Who can frame? Journal of Politics, 63, 1041–1066.Google Scholar
  13. Druckman, J. (2001b). The implications of framing effects for citizen competence. Political Behavior, 23, 225–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eagly, A., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  15. Fowler, E. F., & Ridout, T. N. (2010). Advertising trends in 2010. The Forum, 8(4), Article 4.Google Scholar
  16. Franz, M. M. (2008). Choices and changes: Interest groups in the electoral process. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  17. French, J. (1956). A formal theory of social power. Psychological Review, 63, 181–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. French, J., & Raven, B. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in social power (pp. 150–167). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  19. Garramone, G. M. (1985). Effects of negative political advertising: The roles of sponsor and rebuttal. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 29, 147–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gross, D. A., & Goidel, R. K. (2003). The states of campaign finance reform. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hartman, T., & Weber, C. (2009). Who said what? The effects of source cues in issue frames. Political Behavior, 31, 357–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heaney, M. T. (2007). Identity crisis: How interest groups struggle to define themselves in Washington. In A. J. Cigler & B. A. Loomis (Eds.), Interest group politics (pp. 279–300). Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hogan, R. E. (2005). State campaign finance laws and interest group electioneering activities. The Journal of Politics, 67(3), 887–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hovland, C., & Mandell, W. (1957). Is there a ‘law of primacy’ in persuasion? In C. Hovland (Ed.), The order of presentation in persuasion (pp. 1–22). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jaccard, J. (2001). Interaction effects in logistic regression. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  27. Jaccard, J., & Turrisi, R. (2003). Interaction effects in multiple regression. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  28. Johnson, T., & Kaye, B. K. (1998). Cruising is believing? Comparing internet and traditional sources on media credibility measures. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 75, 325–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kaid, L. L. (1981). Political advertising. In D. D. Nimmo & K. R. Sanders (Eds.), Handbook of political communication. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Kam, C. D. (2005). Who toes the party line? Cues, values, and individual differences. Political Behavior, 27, 163–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kelman, H. (1958). Compliance, identification, and internalization: Three processes of attitude change. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2, 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Keppel, G., & Wickens, T. (2004). Design and analysis: A researcher’s handbook (5th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  33. Kuklinski, J., & Hurley, N. (1994). On hearing and interpreting political messages: A cautionary tale of cue taking. The Journal of Politics, 56, 729–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lau, R. R., & Redlawsk, D. P. (2001). Advantages and disadvantages of cognitive heuristics in political decision making. American Journal of Political Science, 45(October), 951–971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lavine, H., Borgida, E., & Sullivan, J. (2000). On the relationship between attitude involvement and attitude accessibility: Toward a cognitive-motivational model of political information processing. Political Psychology, 21, 81–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lazarsfeld, P., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1944). The people’s choice; how the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. New York: Duell.Google Scholar
  37. Lupia, A. (1994). Shortcuts vs. encyclopedias: Information and voting behavior in California insurance reform elections. American Political Science Review, 89(1), 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Magleby, D. B., & Tanner, J. W. (2004). Interest-group electioneering in the 2002 congressional elections. In D. B. Magleby & J. Q. Monson (Eds.), The last hurrah? Soft money and issue advocacy in the 2002 congressional elections. Washington, DC: Brookings.Google Scholar
  39. Martinelli, K. A., & Chaffee, S. H. (1995). Measuring new-voter learning via three channels of political information. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 72, 18–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mayhew, D. R. (1974). Congress: The electoral connection. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  41. McGuire, W. (1969). The nature of attitudes and attitude change. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 3, pp. 136–314). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  42. Mondak, J. J. (1990). Perceived legitimacy of Supreme Court decisions: Three functions of source credibility. Political Behavior, 12, 363–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mondak, J. J. (1993). Public opinion and heuristic processing of source cues. Political Behavior, 15, 167–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pfau, M., Park, D., Holbert, R. L., & Cho, J. (2001). The effects of party and PAC-sponsored issue advertising and the potential of inoculation to combat its impact on the democratic process. American Behavioral Scientist, 44(12), 2379–2397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Salmon, C. T., Reid, L. N., Pokrywczynsk, J., & Willett, R. W. (1985). The effectiveness of advocacy advertising relative to news coverage. Communication Research, 12, 546–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Semiatin, R. J., & Rozell, M. J. (2005). Interest groups in congressional elections. In R. G. Shaiko, P. S. Herrnson, & C. Wilcox (Eds.), The interest group connection: Electioneering, lobbying, and policymaking in Washington (pp. 75–88). Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  47. Shen, F., & Wu, H. D. (2002). Effects of soft-money issue advertisements on candidate evaluations and voting preference: An exploration. Mass Communication and Society, 5, 395–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sobel, J. (1985). A theory of credibility. Review of Economic Studies, 52, 557–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tomz, M., & Sniderman, P. (2004). Brand names and the organization of mass belief systems. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.Google Scholar
  50. Turner, J. (2007). The messenger overwhelming the message: Ideological cues and perceptions of bias in television news. Political Behavior, 29, 441–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Walster, E., & Festinger, L. (1962). The effectiveness of “over-heard” persuasive communications. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 65, 395–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. West, D. M., & Loomis, B. A. (1999). The sound of money: How political interests get what they want. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  53. Worchel, S., Andreoli, V., & Eason, J. (1975). Is the medium the message: A study of the effects of media, communication, and message characteristics on attitude change. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 5, 157–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zaller, J. R. (1989). Bringing converse back in: Modeling information flow in political campaigns. Political Analysis, 1, 181–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zaller, J. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhao, X., & Chaffee, S. (1995). Campaign advertisements versus television news as sources of political issue information. Public Opinion Quarterly, 59, 41–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Weber
    • 1
  • Johanna Dunaway
    • 1
  • Tyler Johnson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political Science and Manship School of Mass CommunicationLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceThe University of OklahomaNormanUSA

Personalised recommendations