I’m Thankful That I Won’t See Another Political Ad for a Few Years


Elle Love

“Political ads lack the effect of persuading voters who have already made their minds for the election.” Illustration by Mars Nevada/The Gateway

Tis’ the season for ‘unprecedented times,’ political turmoil and the never-ending dread of surviving my last year of remote learning. But, with Thanksgiving ‘rounding the corner this month, I am thankful that we can never hear another “I’m blah blah blah and I approve this message” or another outrageous claim that an opponent isa radical socialist, anarchist or atheist– all of -ists.

Don’t get me wrong. As a Political Science major, being informed about our elected officials and candidates is very important, especially when we decide on who will best represent our values and protect our rights.

We would like to believe these ads would help inform us about the candidates and their policies or to warn us about their opposition, but when after these ads pop up poafter my TV shows or scare me in the middle of the night with ominous stock music, I count the days until we wouldn’t see another ad for a couple of years.

I’m not the only one who felt this way. When it comes to political advertising on social media in the United States, 78 percent of Republican or lean Republican and 76 percent of Democrats and lean Democratic voters responded that it was “not very” or “not at all acceptable for social media companies to use data about their users’ online activities to display ads from political campaigns to them, according to a study from Statista. In total, 77 percent of surveyed adults in the United States are against social media targeting users with political ads based on their usage data from the same study.

Although political ads can tap in to emotion in voters regarding their values and what issues their candidates will address, it has little persuasive power from voters who already made their decision on who they will support.

“There’s an idea that a really good ad, or one delivered in just the right context to a targeted audience can influence voters, but we found that political ads have consistently small persuasive effects across a range of characteristics,” says Yale political scientist, Alexander Coppock.

Coppock and his co-authors — University of California-San Diego political scientist Seth J. Hill and UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck — conducted the study throughout the 2016 presidential primaries and general election to analyze the effects of political ads on viewers

In 2016, Over 29 weeks, researchers selected a representative sample of Americans divided into groups to watch campaign ads attacking or promoting then-Republican Candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton as well as commercials concerning primary candidates, such as Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Bernie Sanders.

“They analyzed the ads’ effects on survey respondents across several variables, including the candidate, party or political action committee that sponsored them; whether they were positive or negative in tone; the partisanship of those viewing the ads; the time to Election Day when they aired; whether they were viewed in a battleground state or not; and whether they aired during the primary or general election,” the Yale study reads.

The results in the survey found that the ads moved a candidate’s favorability among respondents only .05 of a point on the survey’s five-point scale, while the ads’ effect on whom individuals intend to vote for was a small 0.007 percent, according to the same study.

Political ads lack the effect of persuading voters who have already made up their minds for the election. With this pandemic making the entire year of 2020 extremely political, we love to look forward to our holidays not talking about politics at the table or see another crazy ad after watching a music video on YouTube.

I’m unsure about the state of our country with the election but I am relieved to not see another political ad in about a few years. Thank goodness!