2nd Edition

Political Advertising in the United States

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after October 15, 2021
ISBN 9780367761479
October 15, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
234 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations

USD $42.95

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Book Description

Political Advertising in the United States examines the volume, distribution, content, and effects of political advertising in congressional and presidential elections. The book considers the role of television ads using extensive data on ad airings on local broadcast stations. It also analyzes newly available data on paid digital ads, including ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube. The book covers the role of outside groups in airing ads, including the rise of dark money groups and gaps in existing federal campaign finance laws around transparency of outside group spending. The authors consider how ad sponsors design and target ads. They also review the positive and negative implications of an electoral system where billions are spent on paid advertising. With detailed analysis of presidential and congressional campaign ads and discussion questions in each chapter, this accessibly written book is a must-read for students, scholars and practitioners who want to understand the ins and outs of political advertising.

New to the Second Edition

• Covers the spending, content and tone of political advertising in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and the 2018 midterms, looking ahead to 2022 and 2024.

• Addresses the interference of foreign actors in elections and their connection to political advertising.

• Expands the discussion of digital political advertising and incorporates this topic into every chapter.

• Adds a new chapter specifically addressing digital ad content and spending.

• Includes data from the Facebook, Google and Snapchat ad libraries and explores the role of these companies in regulating the sale of political advertising.

• Incorporates new data on the effects of race and gender in advertising, including what is known about the way in which advertising may activate prejudicial attitudes.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: The Regulation of Advertising

Chapter 3: The Volume and Content of Political Advertising

Chapter 4: The Challenge of Online Advertising

Chapter 5: How Ads Are Created and Tested

Chapter 6: Buying and Targeting Political Advertising on Television

Chapter 7: Studying the Persuasive Effects of Advertising

Chapter 8: Beyond Persuasion: Mobilization and Other Effects of Advertising

Chapter 9: The Future of Political Advertising and Its Role in Our Society



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Erika Franklin Fowler is professor of Government at Wesleyan University. She co-directs the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes political advertising, and Delta Lab, which elevates undergraduate computational analyses. She specializes in large-scale analyses of local media and advertising in electoral and health policy settings, and her interdisciplinary work has been published in political science, communication, policy and medical journals.

Michael Franz is professor of Government and Legal Studies at Bowdoin College.  He studies and teaches on campaigns and elections, with a specific focus on campaign finance and political advertising.  He is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising.  Since 2016 he has worked with ABC News as part of their Decision Desk, helping the network project the outcome of elections on Election Night.

Travis N. Ridout is Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government and Public Policy and Director of the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at Washington State University. He also serves as co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising. His research on political campaigns, political advertising and campaign finance has appeared in dozens of journal articles and book chapters.


Praise for Political Advertising in the United States, Second Edition

"There are many strengths to this book, but its defining strength lies in the unique ability to provide evidence-based, cutting edge insights about the rapidly evolving area of digital political advertising. Given that our need to understand the political implications of digital advertising is increasingly urgent, the data presented in this book make it an extremely valuable contribution and educational tool."

--Johanna Dunaway, Texas A&M University

I thought that the first edition of this book could not be bettered. But Fowler, Franz and Ridout have surpassed themselves in this second edition. Drawing on their vast research experience and knowledge, as well as the Wesleyan Media Project data that keep getting better and better, Fowler et al. bring us fully up-to-date on all aspects of political advertising in the United States. While the focus is on the United States, the authors’ insights in chapters on issues such as digital advertising and the challenges of researching advertising effects also have implications for political communication in other countries in which campaigns are increasingly Americanized.

--Daniel Stevens, University of Exeter

Praise for the Previous Edition

"The book is jam-packed with data that illustrate the key arguments advanced by the authors, and the quantitative analyses are presented in an accessible way. In addition, the authors provide a host of examples throughout to help make their points and engage readers. Readers also get an inside look at how political advertising is developed in campaigns, including how ads are created, tested, and purchased. What is especially nice about the book is that it clearly defines and explains the key concepts related to political advertising. This book provides a great introduction to political advertising in US political campaigns. Highly recommended."


"The authors pull together varied research areas including persuasion, negative advertising, and campaign finance laws and rulings to provide a clear and comprehensive narrative of political advertising. The writing is engaging and the use of vignettes provides students with clear examples of why, when, and how political advertising matters. Anyone who wants to know how political advertising works must read this seminal book."

--James Druckman, Northwestern University