American Association for Public Opinion Research

Campaign Advertisements Versus Television News as Sources of Political Issue Information Author(s): Xinshu Zhao and Steven H. Chaffee Source: The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp. 41-65 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749649 Accessed: 22/01/2010 06:47
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CAMPAIGN ADVERTISEMENTS VERSUS TELEVISION NEWS AS SOURCES OF POLITICAL ISSUE INFORMATION XINSHUZHAO H. CHAFFEE STEVEN

Abstract Relative contributions of television news and campaign advertisingto U.S. voters' knowledge about candidateissue differences are compared. Empiricalcomparisonsare based on interviewdatafrom six campaignsurveys of voters, in various election settings from 1984 to 1992. In hierarchicalregression analyses, after controls for demographicand political interest variables, measures of attention to television news consistently accountfor a significantincrementof slightlymore than 2 percent of variance in issue knowledge. Parallel measures representing attentionto candidates'televised advertisementsproducea much more variable pattern in terms of variance explained in knowledge. Usually the effects of advertisementsare less than those of news, and sometimes they are nonsignificant; but in one hotly contested ideological race the informativeeffect attributableto advertisementsexceeds that of TV news. These patternshold up after further controls for other media use variables, including newspaperreading. A commonly repeated generalizationin the political communication literature is Patterson and McClure's (1976) conclusion that voters learn issue informationfrom television advertisementsbut not from television news. The two assertions are often paired in syntheses of the literature(e.g., Diamond 1978; Diamond and Bates 1984; Graber 1989;Jamieson 1993;Kaid 1981;Kraus and Davis 1981;Nimmo 1978; O'Keefe and Atwood 1981). The study has been cited at least 150 times in academicjournals (Social Sciences CitationIndex 1976-93), includingrecent publicationsby political scientists (Bartels 1993;FinXINSHU ZHAO is

assistantprofessorof journalismand mass communication at the University of North Carolinaat Chapel Hill, and STEVENH. CHAFFEEiS Janet M. Peck Professorof international at StanfordUniversity. communication
PublicOpinionQuarterly Volume59:41-65 ? 1995by the American Associationfor PublicOpinionResearch All rightsreserved.0033-362X/95/5901-0006$02.50

and Crigler 1992. Bartels 1993. Lasorsa 1986. and others attribute clear learningeffects to television news (see.g.Drew and Reeves 1980. guidingdaily decisions in field campaigns. New York).unfairand untruthfulof all advertising" (Ogilvy 1985. 1972 election) in a single county (Onondaga County. The "rule" that ads are importantto issue learningwhile news is not affects both researchand practice. Broadcastjournalists. perhaps. it runs counterto many people's intuition-a featurethat has probably helped attractattentionto it. Drew and Weaver 1991). Sears and Chaffee 1979). Indeed. decided in their campaignresearch not to study television news at all.Whilelocal news programsmay emphasizetrivialevents..and Wallach(1990). Chaffee. The proposition that ads are more informative than news is not groundedin any generaltheory (KrausandDavis 1981. are generally conscientious reporters who strive to be informative (Halberstam 1979). but this result does not hold up with controls for measurementerror (Bartels 1993). Neuman. e. To infer that voters do not benefitfrom following the news on television implies that this extensive professionaleffort goes for naught. in response to criticisms of television news following the PattersonMcClurereport. e. misleading. Ward. Often overlooked when citing Pattersonand McClure'sconclusions is the limited scope of their study. Uncontrolled correlationalstudies suggest that TV news is less informativeabout politics than are newspapers.or questioningabout "attention"to TV news ratherthan mere frequency of exposure (Chaffee and Schleuder 1986. McLeod and McDonald 1985). Crigler.42 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H.p.. Just. Diamond and Bates (1984) reported that political campaign managers' beliefs regardingtelevision news and ads are also affected by the Patterson-McClure conclusion. Just. Subsequentvoter surveys have sometimesfound little correlationbetween knowledgeand attentionto politicalcommercials (see. Patterson and McClure's result remainsprominentin the literaturemore because it was the first to make an explicit contrast between learningfrom TV news and ads than because it is consistent with most subsequent studies. The more common view of politicalcomwho called them mercialsis probablythat of the prominentpractitioner "the most deceptive. conductedduringa single campaign (Nixon-McGovern.g.as one instance. prior knowledge (Chaffee and Schleuder 1986. Chaffee kel 1993). 278). They concentratedinstead on commercials(and on televised debates). Still. empiricalcomparisonsof ads versus news . while criticized on many sides. political campaignsdo get considerableTV coverage-partly.some mass communicationresearchersconsider it a "classic" of the political campaignliterature(Weaverand Drew 1993). 210-13). McLeod and McDonald 1985. and Tipton 1970). pp. citing Patterson and McClure as justification for their design.

Some results from this survey are reportedin Owen (1991) and Zhao and Chaffee(1986).2The second was a mail survey of newly naturalizedAmerican citizens in 1. Study Design Our project began in the presidentialcampaignof 1984 and includes five additional replications in two succeeding presidential elections plus one prominentU. the analyses we reporthere have been organizedin line with a commonmodel specifiedfor this study. 54) that network TV news is "simply not informative.M. For consistency. We also enter stringentbehavioral controls where available. 2. Knowledgeablepeople do. and we include here an extensive set of control variables.Most of these replications have been conducted as part of some largersurvey. but merely inferringexposure to ads on the basis of the amountof time the person spent watchingtelevision duringthe hours7:00-10:00P. Details of the six surveys are described in Appendix table Al. So do well-educatedpeople.' Almost all relevant comparisonshave been one-campaign(andusually one-locale) studies. in October 1984 and dealt with the Reagan-Mondale campaign. seek furtherinformationin areas where they are already expert (Sears and Freedman 1967). In this article we report a series of surveys intended to test the generalizationwith data from a variety of election settings. . TV News as Information Sources 43 effects have been outnumberedin the literatureby repetition of Patterson and McClure'sconclusions. Individualdifferences in knowledge might be associated with differentialattention to either news or ads for reasons quite apartfrom the effects of the latter on the former. it is well established. and years of schooling is one of several controls that we routinely enter before our tests of specificeffects of TV news and ads. such as theirassertion (1976. potentiallyas limited in generalizabilityas was the original. Our general method is correlational." Few surveys have asked parallelquestions about TV news and ads.Campaign Ads vs. We thankJack McLeod of the Universityof Wisconsin-Madison for makingthese data availableto us. includingother kinds of political knowledge (apartfrom issue positions of candidates)and use of newspapers. using a frequency-of-viewing question for TV news. so that any doubt a given study might cast on one part of the contrast does not extend to the other. Senate seat campaign. Wisconsin (N = 416). Pattersonand McCluremeasuredthe two independentvariables quite differently. The firstwas a survey of residents of Dane County.S. but as in any secondaryanalysis there is variationin the particulars. using measures designed to provide a clearer comparisonof news versus ads as agencies of voter learning about political issues.p.

Chaffee.g.6Number 5 was conducted in North Carolina's Research Triangle region (N = 360) in early October 1992.9 ences of television are in principle assumed to exist. The authors acknowledgethe assistanceof LeandroBatista. 5. representativenessis not of primaryconcern for this article. Chaffee and Schleuder 1986. The samplingframe was the telephone directoryfor the city of Bloomington. Panel studies provide better evidence of informative effects (see. in the research throughthe San 3. and Crigler1992).8 While randomsamplingprocedureswere employed in all cases. uncontrolledindividualdifferences in knowledgeand in relianceon television produce spurious(usuallynegative) correlations.our purpose is to test relationships. This overall data set.and other studentsin the UNC School of Journalism tion. Datafromthe 1992North Carolinastatewidesurvey are also reportedin Chaffee.over a monthlong confidencein their knowledgeof Nixon and McGovern'sissue positions duringthe fall of 1972. in Bloomington. covers a single media market.S.Neuman. Senate election in which Senator Jesse Helms was reelected over Harvey Gantt. (1992). But learninginfluand Tipton 1970.. Bleske. and with most other tests of their conclusionscited here.44 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H. Ward. conductedin October 1988and dealing with the Bush-Dukakis campaign.not to describe any particular population. Use of local sampling survey. and number 6 was a statewide survey (N = 818) later that month. 4. Some results are reportedin in Drew and Weaver(1991).Glen L. Immigration months of 1988.3The third survey was also conducted in 1988. 7. framesis consistentwith PattersonandMcClure'ssingle-county 8. Pattersonand McClure(1976)measuredchanges. 6.S. just before the November election. gratefully and Mass CommunicaSue Greer. .4 The remainingthree surveys all took place in North Carolina. Indiana (N = 252). while it lacks the putative generalizabilityof a nationwide sample. Data collection was partiallyfunded by a Junior Faculty Development Award to XinshuZhao from the Universityof North Carolina(UNC) at ChapelHill. Some resultsfromthe two surveysare reportedin Zhao. period. and Leshner(1994).which is the level at which campaignadvertisingis allocated.Zhao. We thankProfessorsDan Drew and David Weaverof includessurrounding IndianaUniversityfor makingthese data availableto us. e. Just. and Chaffee(1993a). A local survey. The samplingframe consisted of persons who had been naturalized and Naturalization Service duringthe first 6 Franciscooffice of the U. PrabuDavid. Chaffee northernCalifornia(N = 199). This cross-sectional design is not the optimal method of testing for the existence of media effects. in voters' 9. then. and Chaffee(1993b). Bleske. Bleske. dealingwith the Bush-Clinton-Perot presidential campaign. provides a heterogeneous sampling of voters in dispersed locales. Some findingsare reportedin Zhao et al. Other results from the survey are reportedin Martinelli(1993) and Martinelli and Chaffee(in press).and in Zhao.sNumber 4 was conducted in Orange County (N = 318) immediately following the 1990 U. Hence it avoids dispersionbeyond areas confoundingdifferencesin attentionto ads with geographical of campaignconcentration.which ruralareas.

and election-relatedissue content in the media differ from one place and time to another. then validated in part by the responses. if any. 13. For almost all items. Question wordingand response scales differ somewhat from study to study. issues. which of two majorcandidatesthe respondentthinks is more in favor of a given policy. issue by issue. But when the candidateswere located in the same category in responses to two separate questionsthatdid not ask for a comparison.12 Determinationof the "correct" answer for each issue was made a prioriby the research team. depending more on what the surveys were measuringthan on exactly how it was measured. so we are testing voters' knowledgeof what was being said. Completewordingof all variablesis availableupon requestfrom Xinshu Zhao. The power of our design lies in control and replication.so each questionnaireis the product of a unique negotiatingprocess. we find substantiallysimilar results.We will reserve these issues for discussion. Each survey involved several collaborating researchers.since the respondentmay have perceiveda degreeof differentiation withinthe responsecategory offered. 11. If.5 was assigned. The issue knowledgeitems in these surveys are based on statementsmadeby candidates duringthe campaignsunder study. KNOWLEDGE MEASURES We assume that there exist substantive differences between leading candidatesfor majoroffice on at least some policy issues. 12. Elections.Campaign Ads vs. The generalprocedureused throughoutour studies is to ask.13 10. TV News as Information Sources 45 literaturein question.We presume that limitationsof this design are equivalent for TV news and ads. not of what the candidatesmay have "really believed" in some more existentialsense. as do the control variablesavailableto us (see AppenThese operadix table Al for question wordingsof majorvariables). 0 if incorrector if no response was recorded. and in others advanced students in research methods courses.10 if tional variationsmight pose a significantproblemfor interpretation we get wildly different outcomes from the different elections and research procedures. the response "they have the same positions" was scored 0. media resources. more respondentsselected what we deemed the correct re- . When the question asked for an explicit comparisonon an issue where the two candidatesdiffered. afterexamining the results.11Accuracy of perceptionof these issue differencesis our dependentmeasure. we could conclude that our findings are robust. Responses were scored 1 if correct.a partialscore of 0. Our organizationof replicated surveys is intended to yield roughly comparablefindings. Parallelanalyses using the alternativescoring of 0 points for these response "ties" producedessentially the same results as in table 1. the issue we are addressingis one of relative strengthof effect. on the other hand. but exact identicality is impossible. Interviewerswere in some cases professionals.

by askingrespondentsabout their depth of attention15 to the two kinds of television content in question.77 (see Appendixtable Al). though. Bartels(1993)found a greatdeal of measurement "How often do you watch the national network news on early evening TV-every evening. We followed the findings of Chaffee and Schleuder (1986.46 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H. in recall. proportions of variance explained here representlower-limitestimates. they should not bias that comparison.we includein the analysesreported here only those items.The same can be true of captivating 1990). say.For purposesof the comparisonsin this article.60 to . once or twice a week. and so long as they obtain equally for tests of effects of TV news and ads. see also McLeod and McDonald 1985). however. the findingswere almost identicalto those reportedin table 1.Assumingthat our own judgmentas to the "correct"answerto a given questioncould be faulty. of intentionallyemitted behavior than of autonomic attentionthat has been momentarilycapturedby startlingstimulusdevices.wordingwas very similarand the questionswerejuxtaposednear one anotherin the interviews. When the omitteditems were includedin an alternateversion of the analyses. attentionto ads is perceivedas a more embarrassing betweenmeasuresdespite attentionto TV news. while most of the other measuresin these studies are either normallydistributedor skewed to the right. If. 15. with a medianof . where reliability scores are not consistentlygreaterfor either channelacross the various surveys.we assume that randomerroris approximately equal between our pairs of news and ads attentionmeasures. so our empiricalresults will tend to understatethe true correlations between knowledge and other variables. ? stimulatesequally a respondent'srecall of mentaleffort directedtowardnews and toare designed ward ads. this too could reducethe comparability identical wording. Because of both measurement error and skew. sponse than chose any of the alternatives. the variances remain comparable for our purposes. Another associatedwith admitting to watching possible biasingfactor is the social undesirability self-reportthan television. 14.but that is not a typical element of political campaigncoverage. and televisionnews visuals (Newhagen Schleuder1986). some effort must be made to acquire information.The knowledge scores tend to bunch above the midpoint. or less often?" This errorattenuated raw correlationsbetween issue-differenceknowledgeand this "news exposure" item. Differently shaped distributionsattenuateobserved correlations. So long as social desirabilityexercises a constant bias across the range of self-reportmeasures for both news and ads.85.14 These factors are. approximately constant across our replications. We are assuming here that asking. .3 or 4 times a week.regarding candidatecommercials. This may not always be the case. . A respondent may be more aware. Television ads in particular to evoke attention through an autonomic orientingresponse (Reeves. Chaffee The knowledge indices of these studies range in reliability (Cronbach's alpha)from . "How much attention do you pay . This assumptionis supportedby Appendixtable Al. Differentialskewness is an unavoidableproblem. . errorin responsesto the question. either TV news or The same is likely the case for our measuresof attention. TELEVISION ATTENTION MEASURES Citizensare not wholly passive targetsof mediamessages. Thorson.

Where there was no such measure. not about candidates' issue positions).16 This procedure of approximately equalizingthe strengthof the base equations (at a high and conserlevel) rendersacross-studycomparisonsboth interpretable The full set of control variablesfor each study is detailed in vative. In two surveys there was a measure of general political knowledge (i.Zukin. ability to speak English (in a survey of immigrants).ratherthan the magnitude. which provided a stringentcontrol. Beta weights in a complex multipleregressionequationare confoundedby correlations betweenpredictors."7 section 2 of table 1. 17. across studies.Campaign Ads vs.and Buss 1978.. we added other controls to account for further variance before testing the media effects.Hofstetter.18 Results Section 4 of table 1 displays the hierarchicalanalyses that are most central to this article. sent a multiplecorrelationof at least R = . this cance tests in hierarchical The control blocks in these equationsreprewould confoundstatisticalinterpretation.e.of each beta weight. The entries on each line indicate the additional 16. Controlvariablesin otherpublishedstudies assessing mediaeffects on issue knowledge (Chaffeeand Schleuder1986. Exact coefficients for all control entries in table 1 are availableon requestfrom Xinshu Zhao. and race (in the senatorialcampaigninvolving a black candidate). so the effect of a particularcontrol variableis not constant. TV News as Information Sources CONTROL VARIABLES 47 In all our surveys we controlledfor majorcorrelatesof politicalknowledge. Varianceand importanceof extraneous influences can differ between elections and study populations.McLeod and McDonald1985. only as controls before we examine the independentvariablesof central interest here. The result is a set of control blocks that account for 27-30 percent of the variance in knowledge (table 1). We attempted to strike a balance between maximizingcontrol variance and our need to maintaincomparabilityfor the explicit comparisons that are at stake in these analyses. These are not intended as tests of hypotheses. entering blocks of six to nine predictor variables into the first equationin multipleregression analysis.50 in each case. 18.whichcan create spuriouslyhighcoefficientsin some instances and suppress real relationshipsin others.Weaver and Drew 1993)have explainedfrom 0 to 26 percentof the variance.Drew and Weaver1991. The entries there indicate only the direction and the significance. Beyond the usual interest in controllingfor extraneousinfluences. our objective was to equalize as much as possible the conditions under which the two media effects would be tested from study to study.Since signifiregressionare calculatedagainstthe residualvariance. . If the varianceaccountedfor by the controlblock variedsignificantly so wouldthe residualvarianceto be explainedby an addedmediavariable. We routinelyincludedlikely control variablessuch as educationand age (in all six studies).

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20. The null findingsin Chaffee.'9 Our main comparisonis between incrementalR2 values (and associated significance levels) for news and ads within each study. we were able to control for general political knowledge. Comparingsignificancelevels of incrementsto R2 across the six studies can be R2 itself.50 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H.20 In table 1 we have tested each incrementto R2 againstzero. In each survey. the increment to attention to TV news is statisticallysignificant. if it exists at all. althoughTV ad attentionwas not. .neitherof the two attention measures(TV news or ads) was a significantpredictorof knowledgeof enduring partypositions-whereas the reverse-causation theorywould hypothesize a very strong relationship. and Leshner 1994). Chaffee amountof variance explained separatelyby attentionto news or ads. 22. All beta weightsassociatedwith significant incrementsto R2in table 1 were positive and significantly greaterthan zero. is no strongerfor news than for ads. Further.22 to R2 attributable 19. This result is in keeping with our workingassumption regardinguncontrolledextraneous factors. askingempiricallywhetherthe independent variablerepresentedin the second equationaccounts for any significantresidualvariance in issue knowledge.or that they can to some extent be inferred from knowledge of long-standingparty differences. All significanteffects of both TV attentionmeasuresin table 1 representpositive beta weights.2' Any differences we find between news and ads are inconsistent with alternativeexplanations that apply equally to the two kinds of television fare. suggesting that the reverse causal relation. which includedno such control. In the first two surveys. Comparing of samplesize. Clinton. The same study found that TV news attentionwas a strongpredictor of information aboutthe three 1992candidates(Bush. that in a parallelfindingfrom a 1992California survey (Chaffee. however. Cross-sectional correlationscould be boosted if those who already know the differences between candidates pay more attention to campaignnews and ads. Anotherconcern is that some candidates'positions on some issues may be well known to some voters before the campaign. whichis not a function misleading because of differing samplesizes. We note. EFFECTS OF TV NEWS ATTENTION The main results for TV news are remarkablyconsistent across the six studies reportedin table 1 (sec. though. the results are similarto the later surveys. the beta weights in question were almost identical for news and ad attention. nor even that knowledge was gained specifically during the campaignperiod.and Perot). is more meaningful.Zhao. 4). after the control variables have been accounted for. Zhao. These incrementaltests are not unambiguouslyindicatorsof causal effects. 21. and Leshner (1994)are not attributable to measurementerror.

Helms being a leader of the Senate's conservative bloc while Ganttwas a black challengerand liberalby North Carolinastandards. This result clearly contradictsone majorconclusion of Patterson and McClure.it falls into line with the studies that attributepositive political learning effects to television news. or slightly higher. enablingthem to purchase considerable television advertising time. with almost no variationin the result. In half of the surveys attentionto advertisingis not a significantpredictorof issue knowledge. it is similarly possible that Patterson and McClurealso happened to study an election in which campaignads were unusuallyinformative. Issue differences were extreme. we should conclude that the attentiona person pays to campaignnews on television does indeed enhance the likelihoodof acquiring politicalissue information. EFFECTS OF TV ADS Candidateadvertisingexhibits a muchless consistent patternof effects in table 1 (sec. The findingis replicated here across a variety of campaigns. all of the variance estimates testing the effects of TV news lie in a remarkably narrowrange:2 percent of the variance.S. Given the moderate reliability and negative skewness of the dependent variable.23This contradictsthe second major componentof the generalizationofferedby Pattersonand McClure. the effect of TV news exceeds that of campaignads.when the news effect is first controlled. the median 2-to-I news-to-adsratio should not be taken literally. that is the only case in which the residual effect of ads is significant. that of the residualeffect 23. since both estimates are attenuatedby skewness and unreliability. though. Harvey Gantt.Indeed. and survey procedures. AlthoughR2 values are additive and have a true zero point. The medianR2 value for advertisingeffects in table 1 is an increment of about 1 percent of the variance. favors news over ads in every instance except the anomalousHelms-Ganttcampaign. also found at least one campaign (Helms-Gantt) where the empiricalresult is the opposite of the usual case. .in one election. the advertisingattentionmeasure outstripsthe news measure. The next question we address here is the uniqueeffect of each independent variable when the other is controlled. 4). We have. where incumbent Senator Jesse Helms narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent. On average. Senate. settings. That race gained nationalprominence. This is the 1990 North Carolinaelection for the U.presented in section 5 of table 1. though. It may be noteworthy that this unusual result is found in the only nonpresidentialelection among the six we have studied here.both candidates received majorcontributionsfrom outside the state. plus the stringentcontrol block. TV News as Information Sources Si Further. This comparison. The reciprocaltest.Campaign Ads vs. then.

produces significant effects in most of our studies.McLeod and McDonald 1985. This controlis not only quite stringent. 1990). institutionalized channel of news coverage that is more likely to contribute significantly. In study 4 (Helms-Gantt. While newspapereffects themselves are not of centralinterest in this analysis. the Californiaimmigrant survey being the exception.Weaverand Drew 1993)often use such exposure measures for control and comparisonwhen testing for effects of attention. In section 6. it is normallythe more stable. Five of the six surveys also included questions about frequency of exposure to TV news during the campaign.Nass. CONTROLLING FOR OTHER MEDIA MEASURES Five of the six surveys in our data set measured newspaper reading habits.70. while each channel can add to a generallearningeffect.2 of table 1. Chaffee. In none of these studies was the exposure index as strong a predictor as the correspondingattention measure(datanot shown).Drew and Weaver 1991.it operatesmostly to erode the variancedue .25 The impact of TV exposure measures.52 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H. the residual effects of TV news and ads are estimatedaftercontrolsfor all other mediameasures. 6) produces results consistent with the attentionmeasures (sec. The medianreliabilitycoefficient(Cronbach'salpha)across all multiple-item exposure measureswas . Overall then. was less clear. both exposure and attention measures indicate strongereffects of ads.Chaffee. 26. These account for 1-6 percent (median 2. 4). andYang(1990)found similarlythattelevisionnews is a moreimportant source of politicalinformation than is the Americannewspaperfor recent KoreanAmericanimmigrants. 25. A correlationbetween newspaper reading and TV news/ads could confound our comparisonregardingthe two television sources of information.26 These addi24.4) of the variance in knowledge. sec. while in study 5 each type of measure gives the advantageto news. newspaperreadingand attention. The newspaperstands as the most obvious majorcompetitorto television news. Comparing exposure measuresfor TV news and ads (in the two surveys where both were measured. and TV exposure measures are added as controls. they offer a potential challengeto our inferences. and Leshner 1994. The newspaper appears to be importantin almost all replications.24 Other studies (Chaffee and Schleuder 1986. at least for the attentive audience. Chaffee of news when the advertisingeffect is controlled. Zhao.1 of table 1.table 1. In section 6. however. and two North Carolina surveys also included questions about frequency of exposure to each candidate's advertisements on TV.

it may be that there was instanceswhere we can findno effect attributable insufficient informational content in it.27 Definingthe exact boundariesof "TV news" today might be problematic. Overall. as has been done with corporate publicity messages (Salmon et al.of just two forms of campaign television-news and ads. It is a test specifically of television impact on voter knowledge of issue differences between candidates. In to a channel.1 to 2.Straughan. and the larger impact of all mass media. The increments to R2 attributableto TV news attention decline somewhat. For TV ad attention.2 percent (medianof 0. rangingfrom 0.Campaign Ads vs. Pattersonand McClure(1976)examinedthe issue content of ads that were shown in their area in 1972and comparedthem with networkearly evening newscasts. and Zhao 1994).there are exposurecontrolsfor ad attentionin only two studies. none of the other media measures in these surveys explains away the patternof consistent findings with regardto TV news in comparisonwith TV ads. including interviews. unless one takes account of the greater credibility of news over ads (Jamieson 1992. Or one might study the precepts of channel selection used by politicianswho want to emphato the TV news attentionmeasure. Content analysis is one alternative.28 Content-based inferences about learning are precarious.Another approachis to experimentwith presentationof the same issue information in news versus advertisingformats. variance explained in this final set of equations ranges from 0.with some care taken to employ comparativemeasurement. found more issue information 28. The total effects of all campaigntelevision.2 percent) comparedto the earlierequationsthat did not include such close control variables. not of influenceon other perceptions of candidates.8 to 2.Bleske. They in the ads than in those news programs. though. althoughthe exact amountor kind may vary.which is more likely to be correlated with newspaper readingand attentionthan is TV ad attention.nor on directional opinions or voting. The audiencesurvey is not the only methodby which the institutions of TV news and candidate ads might be compared.0 percent (medianof 1. 27. . and discussion shows. but in principle content analysis can indicate how much issue informationis availablein each subchannelof television.Whileeach attentionmeasureis likely to be correlatedwith its corresponding exposuremeasure. Ourattentionmeasuresassume that both campaignnews and ads normallycontain information relevantto policy issues.7 percent). remainfor other researchto explore. It is explicitly a comparison. 1985). Discussion This study is singularlyfocused. debates.this is the case in five studies for news attention. then. TV news maintainsits advantageover ads in five of the six studies. TV News as Information Sources 53 all the news-adscomparisonsdetailed tionalcontrolsleave undisturbed in sections 4 and 5 of table 1.

This finding extends the conclusion from content analysis that "patterns of presidential election coverage are remarkablyuniform" and "stable" in successive elections. We have also not taken account of additionallearning via interpersonal sources that are themselves informed by mass media. This figure could be multipliedfurtherif the raw correlations were disattenuatedfor measurementerror (Bartels 1993). advertising is only one channel in a tactical mix. predictablepattern. Some candidatesmay use commercialspurBut that is not posively to informvoters about their issue positions. While content analysis investigates the availabilityof information.for whichtable 1 reports has been saidof GeorgeBush's 1988campaign a more usual low-impactresult in two replications. 29. six surveys were conducted under quite differentconditions and employed a considerable variety of measures. The result that does vary substantiallyacross studies is the effect attributable to campaignadvertisements. The same. and across differentareas (Graber1989. however. (Jamieson1993). Televised political advertisingis not a channel to which the enlightenment of the electorate can-or need-be entrusted. 207). Chaffee size an issue difference. or by voters who are seeking informationon issues.Commercials. Our findings take their place alongside a numberof other studies that might serve to rehabilitate the low reputationof TV news in manyacademiccircles.29 a stable. not fully addressableby any single form of research.a campaignmanagerfor a winningcandidate is as likely to be admiredprofessionally for deft use of imageenhancingor personal attack ads. as for ads that might enhance voters' issue learning. askinghow effectively informationreaches the audience throughvarious channels. Not only are our results consistent. . In that regardthis study yields substantialfindings. are generated sporadicallyby campaign staffs dedicated to doing whatever it takes to win votes (and attractcontributions). The comparisonof agencies of political learningis a rich question. the particulars of a given to in matter little the final The study appear very result. yet they almost all point in the same direction.Hence issue-centeredadvertising tactics alone would not account for the similarityof results between the 1972NixonMcGovernrace (Pattersonand McClure1976)and our uniquefindingin the 1990HelmsGanttrace. survey studies often focus on the next stage of the communication.in contrast to institutionalizedtelevision news. p. or of direct mail and partisan appeals. The winningcampaignsof RichardNixon in 1972and of Jesse Helms in 1990used TV ads to portrayliberalpositions of their opponentsas extreme. but they are not trivialin magnitude. The contribution of attention to TV news represents some 6 percentof the total varianceexplainedby all the predictorsin our total equations. say.Campaignprofessionalsare constantly devising innovative ploys in a competitive situation. the resultsfor TV news are highlyconsistent.First.54 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H.

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S. Period when interviewswere conducted. 1986.as a percentage of the numberof mailingsthat were not returnedby the postal service.(4) OrangeCounty. Information Related to Table 1 and Appendix Table Al BASIC INFORMATION ON SIX SURVEYS Yearand month. Appendixtable Al reportsthe lowest estimate (65 percent).NorthCarolina: towns of Carrboro.and environs: includescities/ includesIndianaUniversity.Compare:relativepositions of the candidateswere calculatedon the basis of sepa- . Completedinterviews used in the analysis. and there is no way to determinewhetherthe person to whom a questionnairewas addressed ever received the envelope. Rdm Dgt = random-digit-dialing Intrvl = interval samplingof telephone book (Indianasurvey) or of address and NaturalizationService (Californiasurvey). Election. 1989)in the same county by the same class taughtby the same instructor. and specialfeatures.Calculatedas the numberof completedinterviewsdivided by the numberof people who answeredthe phone. TV News as Information Sources 57 A.and Pittsboro. which is simplythe numberof completedquestionnaires were returned. 2. Wisconsin:includesstate capitalandUniversityof Wisconsin-Madison. area sampled. Via mail or telephone. Time of interviews relative to Election Day. For the Indianaand North Carolinasurveys. (3) Bloomington.andUniversityof North Carolina. 1. State. Senatorialcampaignsetting. 1987. Numberof respondents(N).approximately 3 percent of the mailed questionnaireswere returnedas undeliverableby the U. For the Californiaimmigrantsurvey. KNOWLEDGE MEASURES (APPENDIX TABLE Al) Knowledgeitemformat. Hillsborough.Campaign Ads vs. Presidentialor U. The response rate for the 1984 Wisconsin survey is unknown. The best estimateavailableis based on nonrefusalrates of four similarsurveys of other years (1979. or read it or its cover letter. The formatof the issue knowledgemeasures. the number of contacts cannot be and Naturalization Service list was somecalculatedbecause the Immigration what dated and undoubtedlycontainedsome invalidaddresses. (2) CentralCalifornia region:newly naturalized citizens.(6) North Carolinastatewide:the CarolinaPoll. telephone sampling. Immigrants are likely to move often in their early years in the United States. ChapelHill. Response rates for random-digit-dialing because an unknownnumberof nonresponsesare nonresidentphones or not in operation. opened it. (1) Dane County. Postal Service. response rate was calculatedby dividingthe numberof completedinterviewsby the number attempted. Durham. Sampling method. andChapelHill).(5) ResearchTrianglearea (20 cities/towns includingRaleigh. NorthCarolina: includesstatecapitalandthreemajor universities. these rates rangedfrom 65 to 71 percent. list providedby Immigration Interviewmethod.S. surveys are conservativeestimates. Appendixtable Al reportsthe minimumestimate that of response rate. Prelpostelection.Indiana. Response rate.

for example... often. Response scale unit. These statisticsindicatethe reliabilityand deviation from a normal distribution.: "attention" questions. were summed to create the measure. or none?" Days: numberof days questions.for example. . Number of items (policy issues) used to construct a knowledgeindex. for example. some.In the one case where there are three items. an empty cell indicates the variablewas not measuredin the survey. or none?" How often: frequencyquestions. "How much attentiondo you pay to . "How often do you read . For indices based on more than one item. "How many days out of the last seven did you watch local or nationalnews on television?" Paper: refers to newspaper without specifying content. Pearson's r is an indicatorof interitemreliability." A sample statement: "The Equal Rights Amendment to the U. "How many days in the past week did you watch Americannationalnews on television?" TV news: refersto TV news in general. some. .'" Number of candidates. Measurement. Candt. rarely. little. Negative skewness means that the distributionis skewed to the left. Three-dummy: three dummy entries represent a fourcategoryindependentvariableset. " How often do you readin your newspaperstoriesaboutnational governmentand politics?" Natl. of each issue knowledge index. . Two-item:two responses. a few. with few cases at the low levels and a mean that is higherthan the median. "How much attention did you pay to the TV ads for Bush's election campaign?"Campaign: refers to campaignbut not a specific candidate.58 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H.: refers to national-levelevents. The numberof candidatesabout whom knowledge questions were asked. Number of issues." Match: respondents were asked to match each policy statementwith the candidatewho was more likely to favor it. One-item:one question was the measure. MEDIA MEASURES For TV attention. for example. "How much attention have you paid to television news about the campaign?" Politics: refersto governmentor politics in general. "Please tell me where [Ronald Reagan/WalterMondale] stands with regard to each of the following statements. for example. and TV exposure. Cronbach'salpha and skewness. or never?" Contentreferent.: candidate-specific. for example. for example. newspaper reading and attention. ?" Stories/Ads: quantityquestions. for example. Estimationtasks asked of respondent.respectively. such as one for each candidate. "How many days in the past week did you read an Americannewspaper?" Between-itemr.. "How many days in the past week did you read . for example.for example. a lot.S. "Who is more likely to favor the following statement?'More areas shouldbe opened for oil drilling. Constitutionshould be passed.ratherthancampaignor candidates.for example.. the mean of the three coefficients is reported. Attn. 3. sometimes. Chaffee rate questions about each.for example. "How many news stories/advertisementshave you seen on TV-many.

Three dummyvariablesbased on the followingquestion: "How about television news stories-Would you be more likely to pay closer attentionto a news story about the Reagan-Bushcampaignor a story campaign?" (both equally. agree. an ad for Reagan-Bush neither-other). congressman?" "What party does he belong to?" "Can you tell me the name of the candidatethat is runningagainstyour congressman?" "What party does s/he belong to?" "How long is the term of office for a U.Mondale-Ferraro. national governmentand politics?" (frequently. or neutral). . Three dummyvariablesbased on the following question: "Which type of television advertisementwould you be most likely to or an ad for Mondale-Ferraro?" pay closer attentionto. Constitutionshould be passed. Senator?" "What party does he belong to?" "Can you tell me the name of your U. Reagan-Bush. . DANE COUNTY. "On a scale of one to ten where one is VERY LITTLE and ten is VERY MUCH. "The Equal Rights Amendmentto the U. at least at our present rate.S.S. Question Wordings for Major Variables 1984 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. how much would you say that YOU know aboutpolitics?" Newspaper reading." Attentionto TVnews. disagree.Campaign Ads vs. Attentionto TV ads.sometimes. dale-Ferraro. 1." "The only way to prevent nuclearwar is to continue buildingweapons. ." "Organizedprayer should be allowed in the public schools. Senator?" "How long is the term of office for a United States Representative?" Self-reportknowledge. rarely. "For each statement .The following questions were asked: "Can you name one of Wisconsin's United States Senators?" "What party does he belong to?" "Can you name Wisconsin's other U.S." "The present federal deficit will not hurt continuedeconomic recovery.Monabout the Mondale-Ferraro neither-other). income taxes should be raised before makingfurthercuts in federal entitlementprograms.S. WISCONSIN Issue knowledge. Reagan-Bush. where (do) you think Ronald Reaganand WalterMondalestand?" (stronglyagree. "How often do you read in your newspaper . Generalknowledge. TV News as Information Sources 59 B." "If necessary. . . or never)." Amendmentgiving the states the right "There should be a Constitutional to restrict abortions.strongly disagree. (both equally.

" "Build the 'Star Wars' defense system. Chaffee ELECTION. where 0 means "no attention" and 3 means "very much"): "Commercialsfor Bush" "Commercialsfor Dukakis" Generalknowledge. Senatorfrom Californiawho is runningfor reelection" "Other CaliforniaU." "Fund more day care programs." "Restrict ownershipof handguns. nationalpolitics on television" (scale 0-3." "Sanctions against South Africa." "Increase business income taxes." "Reduce taxes." "Appointliberaljudges to the SupremeCourt.60 2." "Provide militaryaid to NicaraguanContras."Whichcandidatefavors more (Bush. "Build MX missile system." "Requirebalancedbudget in Constitution.S." "Provide equal rightsfor women in Constitution.S. CALIFORNIA NEWLY NATURALIZED MAIL CITIZENS (SELF-ADMINISTERED QUESTIONNAIRE) Issue knowledge." "Reduce militaryspendingas much as possible. Dukakis." "Lower unemployment. or don't know):" "Increase the minimumwage." "Provide health care for every American." "Raise taxes on the rich. no difference." "Restrict immigration." "Execute convicted drug kingpins.S." "Provide for prayerin schools in Constitution. "Give the name and political party of the following:" "Governorof California" "U. Attentionto TV ads. 1988 PRESIDENTIAL IN NORTHERN Xinshu Zhao and Steven H." "Fight communistexpansion." "Requireteachers to lead Pledge of Allegiance." "StrengthenconventionalU." "Restrict imports. indicatehow much attention you have given to it on television" (scale 0-3. Senator" . militaryforces." Attentionto TVnews." "Do more for affirmativeaction." "Restrict abortionsin Constitution. "Indicatehow muchattentionyou have given to U." "Give tax incentives to oil industry.S. where 0 means "no attention"and 3 means "very much"). "For each of the following.

nationalpolitics in the newspapers"(scale 0-3. a little.S. none. "How many days in the past week did you watch Americannationalnews on television?" (fill in answer). none. campaigncommercialson television duringthe presidential some. Exposure to TV news. "How much attention. INDIANA Issue knowledge. "Indicate how much attention you have given to U. Newspaperreading. very little. "Abouthow manydays a week do you reada non-local the IndianapolisStar. some. "How many days in the past week did you read an Americannewspaper?"(fill in answer). if any. NBC. Attention to newspaper stories.S." "favors a legal ban on abortion?" "favors the death penalty?" "opposes aid to the Contrarebels in Nicaragua?" "favors time for prayerin schools?" "favors cuts in the star wars program?" "favors restrictingimportsto reduce the trade deficit?" "favors reduced spendingin generalfor the military?" "favors more spendingon social programs?" ''opposes an increase in the minimumwage?" "Which vice presidentialcandidate . . DK/NA). the Wall paper. CBS. none). Street Journal. some. "Whichcandidate. BLOOMINGTON. "How many days a week do you watch a national networknewscast. or the New YorkTimes?" Attentionto newspaperstories. such as ABC. 1988 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. .GeorgeBush or MichaelDukakis. has said he . "How much attention do you pay to news stories about the presidentialcampaignwhen you see them on television news?" (a lot. Senate in Washington?" Newspaper reading.Campaign Ads vs. a little. Exposure to TV news. or CNN on television?" . "authoreda job trainingact?" "has been accused of acceptingfunds from importantpeople who were then permittedto attend a breakfastmeetingwith him?" Attention to TV news. where 0 means "no attention" and 3 means "very much"). "How much attentiondo you pay to news stories about the presidentialelection campaignwhen you read the paper?" (a lot. TV News as Information Sources 61 "Governorof New York" "Which party has the most membersin the House of Representativesin Washington?" "Which party has the most membersin the U. DK/NA). such as the Louisville Courier-Journal. 3. have you paid to the campaign?"(a lot. Attention to TV ads.

Two questions. or none?" Exposureto TV ads." "Militaryspending:The defense budget has been cut as much as it should. RESEARCH TRIANGLE AREA. ORANGE COUNTY. NORTH CAROLINA Issue knowledge. how many advertisementsfor the (Helms/Gantt)campaign did you see on TV-many.S. Two questions." "A Constitutional amendmentshould ban abortionsexcept in cases where a mother'slife is in danger. some. neutral." "The United States should go slow in cutting emissions to protect the ozone layer. agree. Chaffee 4. little. not at all). "Which candidate.how much attentiondid you pay to them?" (close." "The government'swelfare spendingto help the poor should be decreased. is more likely to favor the following statements?" "Taxes should be increased only for the richest Americans. 1992 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.stronglydisagree." "A drug-related killing should be punishedwith the death penalty. NORTH CAROLINA Issue knowledge." "It should be guaranteedthat a certainproportionof job positions go to minorities. Attention to TV ads. how much attention did you pay to them?" (close. one for each candidate:"How many news stories about the (Helms/Gantt)campaigndid you see on TV-many." "Federal gasoline taxes should be increasedby 50 cents to pay for building new roads and bridges. some. one for each candidate:"When you saw these (Helms/Gannt)commercials. one for each candidate:"By the time the election was held. Bill Clinton.disagree. don't know): "Educationshould receive more federal funding." "The capital gains tax should be cut in half." "There should be tougherlaws prohibitingindustrialpollution. some. one for each candidate:"When you saw these television news stories on the (Helms/Gantt)campaign." "Women should have the legal rightto stop a pregnancy." "The federalgovernmentshould increase spendingon defense. some." Attentionto TV news. Exposureto TVnews.000 should pay income taxes on their Social Securitybenefits to help cut the budget deficit. SENATOR ELECTION."Wheredo you thinkHarveyGanttandJesse Helms stand on the following?"(stronglyagree. Two questions. or Ross Perot. or none?" 5. Two questions. little. not at all). George Bush. a few." ." "People with incomes higherthan $25. 1990 U.62 Xinshu Zhao and Steven H. a few.

" "The capitalgains tax should be cut in half. a few. 1992 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. when you saw political ads that talked about importantissues facing the nation. Two items. little. one for each candidate:"How much attention have you paid to television commercialsfor George Bush/Bill Clinton?" (a lot. Three items. some. Newspaper reading. no answer): "Taxes should be raised for those households who earn more than $90.000a year. some. or none?" 6. some." "The nation should have universalhealth care paid for by employers. ." Attentionto TV ads. none of them. "How many stories about the election have you read in the newspaper?"(a lot. only a little. some. Two items. "Which candidate is more likely to favor the following statement?" (Bush." "A Constitutionalamendmentshould ban abortionsexcept in cases where a mother's life is in danger. Attentionto TVads. one for each candidate: "How much attentionhave you paid to television news coverage about George Bush/Bill Clinton?"(a lot. not at all). TV News as Information Sources 63 "The governmentshould pay college costs for young people who are willing to repay the debt with public service. some. some. a few. "Duringthe past severalweeks." "The governmentshould pay college costs for young people who are willing to repay the debt with public service. only a few. STATEWIDE SAMPLE OF NORTH CAROLINA Issue knowledge. how much attention did you pay to them?" (close. for two candidates (Ross Perot was not includedbecause he hadjust announcedhis reentry into the race but had not yet released any advertisements):"How many television advertisementsfor (Bush/Clinton)have you seen that emphasized importantissues facing the country-many." Attention to TV news. one for each candidate:"How many news storieshave you seen on TV thattalkedabout(GeorgeBush/Bill Clinton/ Ross Perot's) position on importantissues-many. don't know. not at all). "How many days a week do you read about election news in a newspaper?" Exposure to TV news. "Duringthe past several weeks. Attentionto TVads. only a little. or none at all). not at all). Perot. Clinton. some." "The federal budget deficit should be reduced by imposinga 50 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax over five years. how much attention did you pay to them?" (close. Newspaper reading. all three equally. or none?" Exposure to TV ads. little. when you saw television news programsthat covered the candidates' positions on issues facing the nation. Two items." "More areas should be opened for oil drilling.Campaign Ads vs. not at all).

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