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Ads and Editorials

Published in California Journal of Politics and Policy (2024)

Ads and Editorials: How Pretreatment Reduces the Persuasiveness of Interest Group Advertisements (

Advertising studies commonly examine the effects of one-sided treatments. However, political communication campaignsare competitive environments where voters are likely tohear more than one perspective. Because of this dynamic, the persuasive effects of single-sided adsmay beless likely to hold in a competitive environment. When respondents are exposed toarguments from both sides of a ballot propositionissue, can the disclosureof a credible grouphelp anadvertisement overcomeprior opinions? I address this question usinga randomized experiment that includes ballot proposition campaignads. In theexperiments, I manipulatethe pretreatmentenvironment by exposing some respondents to a newspaper editorial in order to provide them with prior opinions that might cause them to resist subsequentadvertisements. I also varythe presence or absence of campaign finance disclosurewithin theadvertisements. In all cases, the presence of acredibleeditorial is associated with a change in support for the initiative. However, the use of a credible campaign finance disclosure has a far less consistent effect. While campaign finance disclosures from credible groups can help counteract prior beliefs that citizens mayhold, I find that the magnitude of these changes is somewhat small.

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