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Interest Group Issue Appeals: Evidence of Issue Convergence in Senate and Presidential Elections, 2008–2014

Michael M. Franz

Michael Franz is Associate Professor of Government at Bowdoin College and Co-Director of the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP). His research interests include campaign finance, political advertising, and interest groups, and he is author or co-author of four books, including The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising (Temple, 2011). He especially thanks The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Wesleyan University for their support of this project, along with his two collaborators, Travis Ridout and Erika Franklin Fowler, and the WMP Project Manager, Laura Baum, plus the entire Media Project team.

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From the journal The Forum

Abstract

Interest groups now play a prominent role in the air war. Their collective investment in election campaigns has skyrocketed in the aftermath of Citizens United. Yet questions remain about whether interest group advertising affects the content of the specific issues being discussed. Do groups enter campaigns and engage voters on the same issues as their candidate allies? Or does the presence of more advertisers introduce competitive issue streams? This paper examines ad buys in Senate elections between 2008 and 2014 and the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. A primary goal of the paper is to uncover the effect of high and low levels of “issue convergence” on election outcomes. Strategists often express concern that too many voices on behalf of a candidate can weaken the impact of ads. One might expect that as convergence between a candidate and his or her allies goes up (meaning the issue content of the ad buys overlaps across advertisers), the impact of ads on votes will increase. Ad effects should be weaker when a candidate’s ads discuss different issues from allied groups and party committees. The results, however, suggest that high rates of issue convergence are only weakly related to election outcomes (and not always in consistent ways).


Corresponding author: Michael M. Franz, Department of Government and Legal Studies, 9800 College Station, Brunswick, ME, 04011, e-mail:

About the author

Michael M. Franz

Michael Franz is Associate Professor of Government at Bowdoin College and Co-Director of the Wesleyan Media Project (WMP). His research interests include campaign finance, political advertising, and interest groups, and he is author or co-author of four books, including The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising (Temple, 2011). He especially thanks The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Wesleyan University for their support of this project, along with his two collaborators, Travis Ridout and Erika Franklin Fowler, and the WMP Project Manager, Laura Baum, plus the entire Media Project team.

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Supplemental Material

The online version of this article (DOI: 10.1515/for-2014-5031) offers supplementary material, available to authorized users.


Published Online: 2015-1-28
Published in Print: 2014-12-1

©2014 by De Gruyter

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