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Posted 09.08.05

Political Radio Ads Give Citizens Hope in the Government, MU Study Finds

COLUMBIA, MO -- For years, politicians have relied upon various media outlets to relay their campaign messages to potential voters. One outlet that receives little interest from researchers but remains a ubiquitous media presence in American life, including political campaigns at every level of the governmental spectrum, is radio. New research from the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that while the general public may have less exposure to radio than to television ads, radio ads are more likely to provide citizens with greater optimism in the political process.

"Radio advertising is both considerably less costly to produce and can easily be narrowly tailored to the audiences of particular stations," said L. Marvin Overby, MU political science professor, who conducted the study with Jay Barth, associate professor of Politics at Hendrix College.

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Overby examined data from a survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University during the 2002 midterm election campaign and during November 4 through 6. He focused on data from the senate campaigns in Arkansas and Missouri, which included 1,001 respondents. He looked at responses to questions related to exposure to campaign ads on the radio, the perceived importance of information received through radio ads, and any influence such exposure had on public attitudes toward government, public trust and campaigns.

Among Overby's more intriguing findings were that men were significantly more likely to find radio ads important than women. The more religiously active citizens relied significantly more on radio ads for campaign information. Surprisingly, although younger Americans are typically thought of as a "video generation," they reported a greater impact from radio ads than older Americans, Overby said. Caucasians also reported less influence from both radio and television ads than non-Caucasians.

Overby also found that exposure to radio and television ads seemed to have very different impacts on citizen's attitudes about the political process. In general, more exposure to television had a greater negative effect on people's trust in government. In contrast, greater exposure to radio ads was strongly associated with a more optimistic assessment of the manner in which democracy operates in the American context, Overby said.

"Americans seem to prefer political processes that display less of the messy, conflictual give-and-take that is often associated with vibrant democratic exchange," Overby said.



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