A Messenger Like Me: The Effect of Average Spokespeople in Campaign Advertising

24 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2014

See all articles by Erika Franklin Fowler

Erika Franklin Fowler

Wesleyan University - Government

P. Lawler

Wesleyan University - Government

Michael Linden

Wesleyan University

Eliza Loomis

Wesleyan University

Zachary Wulderk

Wesleyan University

Laura Baum

Wesleyan University

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Theories of persuasion in political communication have frequently identified the credibility of the messenger as an important factor in determining the influence of a given message. The majority of research in this area, however, focuses on the influence of elite messengers (e.g., party spokespeople or other experts) who through the provision of cues or endorsements give citizens information that aids decision-making without the need to draw on more detailed knowledge. Despite this focus, campaign advertisements frequently feature non-elite messengers as the favored vehicle for conveying a candidate’s message. Yet little is known about the usage and influence of such messengers. Drawing on a comprehensive database of political advertising from the Wesleyan Media Project, our own original coding of almost 300 ads and a new large-scale survey data set assessing the effectiveness and credibility of the 2012 ads, we explore the prominence of such messengers and their effectiveness compared to other types of elite messengers. We demonstrate that using ordinary spokespeople (i.e., “Average Jo(e)” messengers) is a common tactic, particularly in negative campaign ads, and that their use is associated with higher credibility scores than ads without them even after controlling for partisanship and political sophistication.

Keywords: political advertising, messenger, credibility, persuasion

Suggested Citation

Franklin Fowler, Erika and Lawler, P. and Linden, Michael and Loomis, Eliza and Wulderk, Zachary and Baum, Laura, A Messenger Like Me: The Effect of Average Spokespeople in Campaign Advertising (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2453472

Erika Franklin Fowler (Contact Author)

Wesleyan University - Government ( email )

United States

P. Lawler

Wesleyan University - Government ( email )

United States

Michael Linden

Wesleyan University ( email )

Middletown, CT 06459
United States

Eliza Loomis

Wesleyan University ( email )

Middletown, CT 06459
United States

Zachary Wulderk

Wesleyan University ( email )

Middletown, CT 06459
United States

Laura Baum

Wesleyan University ( email )

Middletown, CT 06459
United States

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