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For several months we have been bombarded with political ads on TV, and it’s only going to get worse as the August primary draws closer and district, state and national races heat up.
Television has become the chosen venue for candidates, so we have to assume that’s how voters are influenced most when it comes time to go to the polls. Right? Actually, no!
According to a “Post 2010 Election Executive Summary Report” conducted by Pulse Research, of Portland, Ore., television ads have remained stable at 9 to 13.5 percent effective in being “helpful” to voters.
Newspapers, the evaluation said, have significantly increased their perception as being the Most Helpful political ads, going from 12 percent in 2002 to 21 percent in 2010.
In 2002 , 27.3 percent of voters who were polled said live speeches by candidates were helpful in selecting a candidate, but by 2006 and 2010 only 5.3 and 5.5 percent of the voters relied on live speeches to make up their minds how to vote. Phone calls and lawn signs didn’t even persuade 1 percent of the decisions.
Sadly, 22.5 percent of the people polled in 2010 “did not know” which category of political advertising was most helpful. Apparently they just voted according to how they felt when they got out of bed on election day.
When asked which political ads were most believable, again newspapers led the list with 19 percent. Television was named by 7 percent of the voters and radio by 3.8 percent. Newspapers increased from 10 percent in 2002 and 2006 to the 19 percent high in 2010. Television rose slightly from 2002 to 2006, then slid backward in 2010. Radio remained in the 3 percent range in both 2006 and 2010.
Then the pollsters asked which political ads were most offensive. More than half of the voters stated that television was most offensive. Less than 3 percent of the voters considered newspaper ads to be offensive.
Then voters were asked to select “one media for most information about candidates to help you decide how to vote in the November election.” This (as were all the questions) was an open-ended question, meaning voters were not given a list to pick from, but were asked to name the medium through which they obtained information. Again, newspapers were named as the number one overall source for voters when obtaining information to help them decide how to vote.
On this question, newspapers came in at 26 percent, topping both television (21%) and radio (5%).
Greg Baker, who works for the Missouri Press Association, presented this information at the annual meeting of the Ozark Press Association held in Branson earlier this spring. In sharing the information, he pointed out that the information was received from Missouri voters by the Pulse Research group in Oregon. Although this research team had no interest in how Missouri votes, was working as an independent research group and had no reason to juggle numbers or to read into the question anything other than what the voters said, it is apparent that newspaper advertising is the most helpful and most trusted source of information for voters in Missouri.
At the national level, candidates will spend billions of dollars on television between now and November while newspapers – clearly the trusted source of information for voters – will struggle along, happy to get the percentage of advertising dollars that come our way.
Is it any wonder they can’t balance the budget when they get elected?
PS: I’ve only hit the high points of this analysis released by Pulse Research. There’s much more to it. I do want to emphasize, however, that comments were only taken from registered voters in Missouri. In 2006 and 2010, only comments from registered voters “who voted” were considered.