Political Advertising in the United States

Erika Franklin Fowler, Michael M. Franz, and Travis N. Ridout

First Edition • February 23, 2016 • 216 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813349756 • $29.00 USD$37.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813350103 • $19.99 USD$25.99 CAN

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Political advertising is as important as ever—ad spending records are broken each election cycle, and the volume of ads aired continues to increase. Political Advertising in the United States is a comprehensive survey of the political advertising landscape and its influence on voters. The authors, co-directors of the Wesleyan Media Project, draw from the latest data to analyze how campaign finance laws have affected the sponsorship and content of political advertising, how “big data” has allowed for more sophisticated targeting, and how the Internet and social media has changed the distribution of ads. With detailed analysis of presidential and congressional campaign ads and discussion questions in each chapter, this accessibly written book is a must-read for students, scholars and practitioners who want to understand the ins and outs of political advertising.


Visit our YouTube channel for a collation of historical and contemporary political advertisements and other videos, organized by chapter, to supplement book discussion and inspire classroom activities: youtube.com/c/Westviewpress-Political-Advertising.

Erika Franklin Fowler is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. After finishing her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007, she spent two years as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. Her research focusing on local media and advertising has appeared in the Journal of Communication, Political Communication,International Journal of Press/Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Health Affairs and The American Journal of Managed Care. Fowler also serves on the ABC News Election Night Decision Desk and frequently gives talks to health and election journalists about how to improve their reporting.

Michael M. Franz is associate professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. His research interests include campaign finance, political advertising, and interest groups. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising (Temple, 2011) and Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process (Temple, 2008). He has published articles in such journals as Journal of Politics, American Journal of Political Science, American Politics Research, and Political Communication. Since 2010, he has been co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Travis N. Ridout is Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government and Public Policy and Associate Professor in the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at Washington State University. He is also co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and serves as chair-elect of the Political Communication section of the American Political Science Association. Ridout received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, and his research on political campaigns and political advertising has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Communication, Political Behavior, Political Psychology, Annual Review of Political Science, and in several book chapters. Ridout’s most recent book, The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising, was published in 2011 with Temple University Press.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Regulation of Advertising
Chapter 3: The Content of Advertising
Chapter 4: How Ads Are Created and Tested
Chapter 5: Buying Political Advertising
Chapter 6: Targeting Political Advertising
Chapter 7: The Internet, Social Media and Advertising
Chapter 8: The Intended and Indirect Effects of Advertising
Chapter 9: The Unintended Effects of Advertising
Chapter 10: Conclusion

“The book is jam-packed with data that illustrate the key arguments advanced by the authors, and the quantitative analyses are presented in an accessible way. In addition, the authors provide a host of examples throughout to help make their points and engage readers. Readers also get an inside look at how political advertising is developed in campaigns, including how ads are created, tested, and purchased. What is especially nice about the book is that it clearly defines and explains the key concepts related to political advertising. This book provides a great introduction to political advertising in US political campaigns. Highly recommended.” —Choice

“The authors pull together varied research areas including persuasion, negative advertising, and campaign finance laws and rulings to provide a clear and comprehensive narrative of political advertising. The writing is engaging and the use of vignettes provides students with clear examples of why, when, and how political advertising matters. Anyone who wants to know how political advertising works must read this seminal book.” —James Druckman, Northwestern University

Political Advertising in the United States provides important insight about the manner in which campaign finance laws shape the strategic behavior of candidates, campaigns, and outside groups, as well as the impact, reach, and persuasiveness of the ads themselves.” —Johanna Dunaway, Louisiana State University

Political Advertising in the United States emphasizes the consequential role political ads play in the electoral process. The ease with which the authors combine detailed ad narratives from recent elections with political advertising research will spur students to question, investigate, and reflect on the role of political ads as they participate in future elections.” —Alison Howard, Dominican University of California

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