Digital Fingerprints: A New Method for Measuring Political Advertising
27 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014
Date Written: March 29, 2013
We leverage individual level media exposure data, providing second-by-second records of viewers television and advertising exposure, to better understand how candidates send political messages to the public and how the public receives those messages. Panelists were provided smartphones equipped with audio recognition software that digitally logged all of their television exposure over the course of the 2006 midterm campaign. These data enable an analysis of not only who watches political advertisements, but also what types of people “turn-off” ads and what types of ads are avoided. Contrary to conventional wisdom, results indicate that politically engaged citizens are the least likely to encounter political advertisements, while those who pay little attention to politics are the most likely to encounter political advertisements. We find little evidence to suggest that viewers are “turning off” (fast forwarding, muting or changing the channel) political ads representing a partisan view conflicting with their own.
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