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Polarization in Less than Thirty Seconds: Continuous Monitoring of Voter Response to Campaign Advertising

By Shanto Iyengar, Simon Jackman and Kyu Hahn

Abstract

partisan predispositions. Both aggregate and individual-level studies demonstrate that exposure to campaign communication strengthens the correspondence between partisan predispositions and voting choice (for a recent review, see Iyengar and Simon, 2000). At the aggregate level of analysis, the reinforcement effect appears over time, as voters gradually align their voting intention with the so-called ‘‘fundamentals’’: e.g., partisanship, retrospective assessments of the state of the economy, and approval of presidential performance (Gelman and King, 1993; Iyengar and Petrocik, 1998). By Election Day, the electorate is almost perfectly polarized, with the competing candidates enjoying near-unanimous support from the ranks of their respective partisans. Individual-level studies of campaign effects also document reinforcement or polarization effects. These studies demonstrate that voters do not react to campaign messages as dispassionate observers, but as biased partisans (Schmitt et al., 2004; Lord, Ross, and Lepper, 1979; Eveland and Shah, 2003). For instance, no matter ho

Year: 2008
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