Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler recently had two new articles on advertising in the 2014 elections published.
Co-written with her Wesleyan Media Project co-director Travis Ridout of Washington State University, “Political Advertising in 2014: The Year of the Outside Group” was published in The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics in December 2014. The paper notes a plateau in political advertising volumes and levels of negativity this election cycle, and an increasingly prominent role played by outside groups, especially in competitive races for the U.S. Senate. It also tracks the most competitive races, looks at issues featured in ads, and notes that advertising started earlier this election cycle.
Another paper, written by Fowler, Ridout and the Wesleyan Media Project’s third co-director, Michael Franz of Bowdoin University, titled, “Sponsorship, Disclosure and Donors: Limiting the Impact of Outside Group Ads,” was published online in Political Research Quarterly in December 2014. The paper reports that interest group advertising from dark money sources has grown. Yet despite extensive advertising, the vast majority of the public has not heard of prominent interest group advertisers, regardless of whether or not they disclose their donors. Building on a small but growing literature, the authors demonstrate that advertising from unknown interest groups is viewed more credibly and ultimately moves intended vote choice more than ads from candidates. Disclosure–either in an ad or through the news media–levels the playing field in ad effectiveness, but does not make interest group advertising any less effective than candidate advertising.