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Weighted Content Analysis of Political Advertisements

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Abstract:

This article proposes weighted content analysis as a methodological extension of traditional (unweighted) content analysis of political advertising. Weighted content analysis distinguishes between political ads that were produced but not aired and ads that actually aired in a particular media market. To illustrate the advantages of weighted content analysis, this article examines the 1996 presidential campaign in Columbus, Ohio. The tone of 132 presidential campaign ads produced by both candidates is compared with the tone of the 2,522 ads that aired on the three major network affiliates in Columbus. The price of the ad buy is used as an alternative weight that takes into account audience size and thus allows a further distinction between aired and watched ads. Both weighting procedures show that Republican advertising in 1996 in Columbus was more negative than Democratic advertising during the fall campaign, a result that remains undetected by unweighted content analysis. The article concludes by describing three different ways to obtain weighting data: political files kept by television stations and cable providers, commercial tracking data, and internal campaign records.

Keywords: AD AIRING FREQUENCIES; AD BUYS; AUDIENCE SIZE; CONTENT ANALYSIS; POLITICAL ADVERTISING; WEIGHTED CONTENT ANALYSIS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10584600152400374

Publication date: 2001-07-01

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