The Third-Person Effects of Political Attack Ads in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election

Ran Wei, Ven-Hwei Lo
2007 Media Psychology  
This study examines the indirect effects of extensive negative political attack ads in the 2004 presidential election from a third-person effects perspective. Results of a survey using a probability sample of 496 college students indicate that these students believe attack ads harm others more than themselves. Moreover, the respondents tended to perceive attack ads in traditional media to have a greater harmful effect on self and others than attack ads on the Internet. Contingent factors that
more » ... gent factors that account for the magnitude of third-person effects include social distance and knowledge. Further, exposure to attack ads was found to be the strongest predictor of perceived harms of such ads on self and others, but only perceived harm on others is a significant predictor of support for restrictions on attack ads. The study contributes to research on the third-person effect by testing perceived harms of attack ads on self and others separately on likelihood to support restrictions. Political attack ads (hereafter attack ads) refer to negative advertisements in political campaigns "that concentrated on what is wrong with the opponent, either personally or in terms of issue or policy stances" (Kaid, 2004, p. 157). In terms of advertising strategy, attack ads are characteristically "opponent-focused, rather than candidate-focused" (Kaid, 2004, p. 163). Although negative political advertising has been used for decades in campaigns at various levels, including presidential MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY, 9,
doi:10.1080/15213260701291338 fatcat:43rwvlza7rhuxe6lhxwrklenkm