Of dark clouds and silver linings: Effects of exposure to issue versus candidate advertising on persuasion, information retention, and issue salience


In this study, we examine the impact of sponsorship cites in issue versus candidate advertising on perceived credibility, persuasion, information retention, and priming of message-relevant issues. Theories of persuasion and attitude change suggest that citizens should react differently to the same message when source cues are varied. In an experiment, adult participants saw either an actual ad sponsored by the Sierra Club, an edited version in which Al Gore was depicted as the sponsor, or no ad at all. Although participants were slightly less able to correctly identify the sponsor of the issue ad, the ad was seen as more credible and persuasive than the candidate-sponsored version. Though both were negative in tone, the issue ad did not depress participatory intentions as much as the candidate ad. Participants also retained more information from the issue appeal. Finally, the issue ad was a more powerful prime for message-relevant performance criteria in evaluations of the target, George W. Bush. The implications of these findings for the ongoing debate on campaignfinance reform are discussed.

Publication Title

Communication Research