On or off topic? Understanding the effects of issue-related political targeted ads

Xiaotong Chu*, Lukas Otto, Rens Vliegenthart, Sophie Lecheler, Claes de Vreese, Sanne Kruikemeier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Whilst data-driven strategies are allegedly prevalent in political campaigns, evidence regarding their actual effectiveness is scarce. This study investigates, from an individual perspective, the effect of issue congruency in political ads on immediate responses and voting behaviors. To reach our goal, we combined different types of data collection: mobile experience sampling method (mESM), panel survey, and content analysis. The combined approach allowed us to effectively study targeted ads within the cross-device and cross-platform environment. The results showed that voters perceive online political ads that are about a topic that they care about as more interesting, informative, and persuasive regardless of their partisanship. This positive ad perception subsequently leads to a higher probability of voting for the promoted party in the ad. We also found that an ad discussing a topic in line with the receiver’s concerns positively affects the evaluation of the promoted party in the ad only when the party is already favored by the voter. Taken together, this study provides insights into the conditional effectiveness of data-driven strategies in political campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Communication and Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Data-driven campaigning
  • issue congruency
  • mobile experience sampling method
  • panel survey
  • vote choice

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