How to persuade voters in the election campigns using political advertising
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This paper provides insights into the effectiveness of “Stand by Your Ad” (SBYA) legislation that requires specific disclosure of sponsorship for all advertising employed in federal election campaigns. Since one of the policy’s intended goals is to lessen negativity, this study examines the effectiveness of positive and negative political advertisements with different disclosure timing (beginning vs. end vs. non-disclosure) in a candidate’s ad. While only one experimental treatment (message valence) exhibited a significant main effect on attitude toward the ads and voting intention for the sponsoring candidate, MANCOVA revealed significant two-way and three-way interactions. The mandated disclosure statement increases positive attitude toward ads and intensifies voting intention for the sponsor in positive ads. In contrast, SBYA language decreases the impact of negatively valenced ads on both attitudinal and behavioral responses. This analysis presents evidence that the inclusion of SBYA legislation is likely to serve its public policy purpose of discouraging the use of negative appeals in that SBYA language induces attitudinal backlash toward negative messages and actually diminishes voting intention in the response to negative ads. This study also found that for behavioral responses, the impact of frequently seen positive ads is encouraged by their containing SBYA language at the beginning, whereas SBYA language at the beginning depresses the impact of frequently seen negative ads. This finding suggests that the current public policy should contain specific rules for timing SBYA identification at the beginning of the ad to serve the intended purpose of discouraging negativity. The findings also provide evidence that credibility plays the critical role of mediator predicting the relationships between SBYA language and attitude toward the opponent, between message valence and attitude toward the sponsor, and between message valence and attitude toward the opponent candidate.