Two Government Department faculty recently co-authored scholarly articles with recent Wesleyan undergraduates.
Chloe Rinehart ’14 and James McGuire, chair and professor of government, are the co-authors of “Obstacles to Takeup: Ecuador’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program, the Bono de Desarrollo Humano,” published in World Development in September 2017.
Rinehart and McGuire examined factors that keep impoverished people from benefiting from the social assistance programs for which they are legally eligible. Taking the case of Ecuador’s Bono de Desarrollo Humano (BDH), a U.S. $50 monthly cash transfer to families in the poorest 40 percent of the income distribution, they used field research in Ecuador to identify potential obstacles to program takeup, and Ecuador’s 2013-14 Living Standards Measurement Survey to explore which of these potential obstacles were critical deterrents. The quantitative analysis of these survey data showed that compliance costs, like travel to enrollment and payment sites, and psychological costs, including stigma and distrust of government, each had a significant deterrent effect on BDH takeup.
“The purpose of social assistance is to help the poor, but if social assistance is to achieve this goal, the poor must actually receive it,” Rinehart and McGuire concluded. This problem is not limited to Ecuador, they added. In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 14th Report to Congress, only 32 percent of eligible United States households received Temporary Aid for Needy Families, the country’s flagship “welfare” program.
In addition, Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government, and Matthew Motta ’13 co-authored “The Content and Effect of Political Advertising in U.S. Campaigns,” published in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics in December 2016.
The paper covers current trends in campaign advertising in the U.S., and negative advertising in particular. Fowler and Motta write that campaigns use advertising strategically to persuade citizens their candidate is preferable to the alternatives; to mobilize like-minded supporters to get out to the polls to cast a ballot for their candidate; and to acquire citizens’ personal information, so they can more effectively target individuals with appropriate persuasive or mobilizing messages.
Online advertising is growing, but television advertising volume has largely been on the rise, too, with 2014 being a plateau. Over the past decade, legal changes in the campaign finance landscape have resulted in an increase in ad sponsorship by interest groups, though candidates have continued to sponsor a majority of advertising on the airwaves.
Negative advertising dominates, with more than 65 percent of political ads—and as much as 87 percent of presidential ads—since 2006 being negative in tone. Political parties and interest groups are more likely to air negative advertising by candidates, but candidates do not refrain from going negative too. Negative ads are more likely to cite specific sources and therefore are generally considered more substantive.
While early studies of advertising cast doubt on their effectiveness, more recent work suggests that advertising effects matter at the margins in the most competitive contests. The effectiveness of advertising varies in relation to the characteristics of the ads, the individuals who view them, and general factors in the campaign. Scholarship suggests that advertising has persuasive but short-lived influence on citizens and that advertising volume and negativity may aid mobilization efforts. Technological advances in the way TV advertising is deployed is increasing campaigns’ ability to target citizens in a fashion similar to online advertising, which has implications for how well researchers can continue to study it. Scholars have made considerable progress in studying 21st-century advertising effects, but a number of logistical hurdles and unanswered research questions remain.