The Perception of Political Advertising During an Election Campaign: A Measure of Cognitive and Emotional Effects

  • Daignault P
  • Soroka S
  • Giasson T
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Abstract

OFFICIAL ABSTRACT ABSTRACT Scientific interest in political ads has been growing in recent years and has fuelled an important body of research, focusing mostly on the United States. Yet many issues associated with the impacts and contents of electoral ads remain unexplored, especially within the Canadian context. This article investigates the immediate and simultaneous effects of positive, negative, and mixed-content electoral ads. It presents data drawn from a series of pre-tests of an experimental design carried out with 31 voters during the Canadian federal election of 2011. Participants viewed ads selected for their argumentative content and non- verbal components. The impacts of the ads were tested using an innovative multimethod ap- proach combining physiological and cognitive measures. Among its contributions, this novel method helped generate a more nuanced and precise evaluation of the effects of negative ad- vertising on viewers. p.168 This study represents a first step toward filling these gaps. The objective is to ex- plore the Impact of the "tone" of campaign ads outside the U.S., namely, over the course of the 2011 Canadian federal election campaign. Impact is captured in an ex- perimental lab setting using both cognitive and physiological measures. The use of two measures offers some important advantages. Physiological measures reveal the tendency for arousal and attentiveness to increase for negative over positive ads; cog- nitive measures suggest the potential importance of audiovisual cues in individuals' processing of political advertising and point toward the possibility that efforts to process informafion are higher and more conducive to message acceptance when par- ticipants are exposed to ads reflecting participants' own political affiliation. Taken to- gether, these physiological and cognitive findings add to a growing body of work on political advertising and point toward some interesting possibilities for future research as well. p.182 An interesting element of this study relates to emotional cues. Previous studies have mostly ignored audiovisual attributes of televised advertising (images, use of colour, presence of music, et cetera), even if their potency—including the experience of emotions—has been recognized. In this study, we have considered them in the defi- nition of the advertising tone, which is usually determined solely on the basis of verbal and/or written arguments, and in the cognitive processing of ads. Our study aims to fill this gap in both the Canadian and intemational literature. Furiher analyses need to be done, however, to explain the infiuence of distinct types of emotional cues on individuals viewing televised political ads. p182 Firstiy, negative televised election ads generate heightened attention levels and a higher level of physiological activation in individuals when compared with positive or mixed messages. This finding confirms other international analysis on the impact of negative media content.

Author-supplied keywords

  • cognitive response
  • effects of tv ads
  • negative advertising
  • physiological reactions
  • political advertisement
  • political communication
  • televised electoral ads
  • tv ads

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Authors

  • Penelope Daignault

  • Stuart Soroka

  • Thierry Giasson

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