Most Helpful, Most Believable, Least Offensive

Greg Baker May 8, 2012


Political ads in newspapers 'most believable'

Between the general elections of 2002 and 2010, newspapers significantly increased their perception as providing Missourians with the "most helpful" and "most believable" political advertising.

During that period, Missouri voters who were surveyed said political advertising on television is much more "offensive" than ads in any other media.

Those are some of the findings of post-election surveys commissioned by the Missouri Press Association (MPA) and conducted by Pulse Research, Inc., of Portland, Oregon. Surveys of Missourians who voted were conducted after the November elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

"The results of these surveys show that in spite of the volume of political advertising on television, radio and the internet, Missourians see newspapers as the best place to look when they want information to help them decide how to vote," said Doug Crews, executive director of MPA.

While the "most helpful" perception of advertising in newspapers rose from 12 percent in 2002 to 21 percent in 2010, the same rating for television advertising went from 9 percent to 13.5 percent and for radio advertising from 0.5 percent to 3.8 percent.

"Most helpful" ratings for social media advertising were 1.3 percent in 2010 after not registering in the earlier surveys. Websites for candidates and issues actually fell on the "most helpful" question, from 15.5 percent in 2002 to 6 percent in 2010.

"Candidates and issue advocates would do well to take note of these findings," Crews said. "When people are looking for information to help them decide how to vote, they look to advertising in newspapers."

Missourians also perceive political ads in newspapers to be much less offensive than advertisements on television. In the 2010 survey, only 2.5 percent of the respondents said newspaper ads were the most offensive, while 53.8 percent said political ads on television were the most offensive.

When asked what medium had the "most believable" political ads, newspapers polled 19 percent, television got 7 percent and radio 3.8 percent.

This research shows that few Missourians are offended by political ads in newspapers, and many find them to be very helpful and believable, Crews said. At the same time, about 71 percent of the people surveyed "agreed" (15.4 percent) or "strongly agreed" (55.7 percent) that negative ads on television made them less likely to vote for that candidate or issue.

Other media choices in the surveys included live speeches, candidate brochures, telephone calls, websites, social media, several other mediums, "other" and "don't know."

Pulse Research polled 400 Missourians who voted in November from all counties in the state for the 2010 survey.

The complete survey results are available here: Post-election Summary Report 2002-2010,  2010 Phone Survey Post-Election Results and 2010 Online Survey Post-Election Results.

For graphics, advertisements and images about the survey go here.

MPA, founded in 1867 and based in Columbia, represents 280 member newspapers.

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