Political Advertising and Election Outcomes

Kilts Center for Marketing at Chicago Booth – Nielsen Dataset Paper Series 1-046

96 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2015 Last revised: 28 Aug 2016

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 1, 2016


We study the persuasive effects of political advertising. Our empirical strategy exploits FCC regulations that result in plausibly exogenous variation in the number of impressions across the borders of neighboring counties. Applying this approach to uniquely detailed data on television advertisement broadcasts and viewership patterns during the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, our results indicate that total political advertising has virtually no impact on aggregate turnout. The point estimates are precise enough to rule out even moderately sized effects. By contrast, we find a positive and economically meaningful effect of advertising on candidates' vote shares. Evidence from a regression discontinuity design with millions of observations suggests that advertising affects election results by altering the partisan composition of the electorate.

Keywords: advertising, elections, voting, turnout, persuasion

JEL Classification: D72, M37, P16

Suggested Citation

Spenkuch, Jörg L. and Toniatti, David, Political Advertising and Election Outcomes (April 1, 2016). Kilts Center for Marketing at Chicago Booth – Nielsen Dataset Paper Series 1-046, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2613987 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2613987

Jörg L. Spenkuch (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences (MEDS) ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jspenkuch.github.io

David Toniatti

Analysis Group, Inc. ( email )

111 Huntington Avenue
10th floor
Boston, MA 02199
United States

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