rise of party and interest group campaign advertising over the last
few elections has raised some interesting and newsworthy questions
about the effects of campaign communications on voters, both in terms
of their attitudes toward elections and democracy as well as possible
effects on voter behavior. Few studies of campaigns have been able
to link the volume, tone, and type of campaign communication to attitudes
and behavior of voters. Many political scientists are in agreement
that political campaigns have important and measurable effects on
voting behavior. What is less understood is just how this link works.
Does television advertising, direct mail, telephone calls, or in personal
contact have the largest effect, or is it some combination of these
factors that affects both a voter’s choice of candidates and
their decision about whether or not to vote at all? The tone of campaign
communication is also an important factor to consider. Political consultants
believe negative campaigns really work, but the evidence produced
by political scientists is divided on this issue. Lastly, competitive
campaigns can produce an enormous volume of campaign communications.
How do voters deal with and process this information? Does more information
produce more informed voters or do they feel overloaded and begin
to ignore or avoid it?
2004 presents a unique opportunity
to study some of these issues. Accordingly, The Center for the Study
of Elections and Democracy (CSED) at Brigham Young University and
the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison are conducting a panel study this election year to better
understand the link between campaign communications and voter behavior.
More specifically, we are conducting
a three-wave panel study to measure the impact of campaign communications
at critical points during the campaign. Panel studies are well suited
to our research purposes because the same respondents are reinterviewed
at different points in time throughout the campaign permitting us
to assess change in attitudes or behavior due to campaign communications.
We conducted the first wave over an eight day period between June
24 and July 3, completing 2,782 interviews comprising a random sample
of the United States with an oversample of potential voters in battleground
senate and presidential states. We also oversampled voters in Ohio
for a representative look at that key state. The second wave of interviewing
will occur in early September. The third wave will begin on Tuesday
evening November 2nd (Election Day).
Although much of the instrumentation
in the survey is designed to tap the effect of campaign communications
on voter behavior, there are a slew of other questions that we hope
other scholars can make use of in their research and we are happy
to provide real time access to that data as soon as possible over
the course of our study and beyond.
Data should be cited in the following
way: The 2004 Election Panel Study, BYU Center for the Study
of Elections and Democracy and UW-Madison Wisconsin Advertising
Electronic resources from the EPS Web site (http://csp.polisci.wisc.edu/BYU_UW/).
Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Advertising Project
[producer and distributor], 2004, Wave 1.