Online Political Ads Sway Voters

Online banner advertising influences voter awareness and attitudes, according to E-Voter 98, a case study on the attitudinal impact of online political advertising. The study tested the impact of the online banner ads bought by 1998 New York State gubernatorial candidate Peter Vallone for his campaign to unseat Governor George Pataki.

The ads, which ran on The New York Times on the Web, focused on several key election issues and sought to change voter opinions of each candidate.

The findings of the study suggest that Vallone’s banner advertising helped create a 14 point negative swing in Pataki’s overall favorability rating. Survey respondents exposed to the banner ads were 7 percent less likely to have a favorable opinion of Pataki and 7 percent more likely to have an unfavorable opinion of him.

The study was published by Westhill Partners and conducted by Turtleback Interactive and DecisionTree with the cooperation of The New York Times Electronic Media Company.

“This study suggests that the mere presence of online advertising has an attitudinal impact on those who are exposed, similar to traditional communications vehicles used in political campaigns,” said Nick Nyhan, Managing Director of DecisionTree.

The study also found that users of The New York Times Web site think that the Internet can play an important role in making voting decisions. Of those surveyed, 62 percent thought that the Internet allows them to get the information they want about candidates. Additionally, more than half of the respondents (51 percent) said that if they were undecided about whom to vote for, they would use the Internet for help in making the decision.

“It’s time to start thinking about expanding the mechanisms for communicating in the political arena to include online advertising,” said Karen Jagoda, President of Turtleback Interactive, which commissioned the study.

Candidate Vallone, the Speaker and Majority Leader of the New York City Council, was the only gubernatorial candidate to utilize banner advertising as part of his media mix. All other candidates relied on traditional forms of advertising.

The study was fielded on The New York Times Web site during late October 1998. It was conducted with a total of 1,335 respondents, 729 of which were exposed at least once to a Vallone banner advertisement. The remaining 606 respondents were never exposed to the Vallone message. The study’s margin of error is +/- 3 percent.

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