1

How TV news and ads affect Americans

A pedestrian stops to watch a news report outside the ABC News studios in Times Square on April 18, 2012 in New York City.

Jeff Horwich: Time for our weekly Attitude Check, it's our partnership with Gallup. Editor-in-chief Frank Newport, hello to you.

Frank Newport: Good morning.

Horwich: So today, we are talking about television news. And I guess for local TV we could frame this as kind of a "best of times, worst of times" situation. Let's start with the worst.

Newport: Well, the worst of times probably is that confidence in television news is the lowest in our history of measuring it: 21 percent of Americans have a great deal or quite a bit of confidence in television news. And these data were collected a couple weeks ago, but before the Supreme Court decision came down -- where we had the blunders by CNN and Fox News. So, not good news in terms of that aspect of TV news.

Horwich: We hear a lot about waning confidence in newspapers. How does television news compare?

Newport: Well, newspapers are doing a little better. You know, newspapers are not doing well financially, but confidence in newspapers now is at 23 percent -- how's that, a couple of points higher than television news.

Horwich: So now to some good news for television stations, in some places anyway -- lots of spending on political ads. What kind of dollars are we talking about?

Newport: You know, the National Journal had done some review of that, and it's very, very high. They reported, for example, in Tampa -- which is down there in Florida, a swing state -- $12.1 million in presidential ads this year just in that market. So if you have a TV station in a swing state at this moment, it's great news, because those people are coming to you with open checkbooks to try to buy television ad time on your station.

Horwich: And what do you at Gallup know about what kinds of political ads affect people and who is actually affected by them?

Newport: It's an interesting question. We asked people in swing states in a recent poll: Have you seen ads? And sure enough, they had; 82 percent said they had and that's 20 points higher than the percent of people in the country as a whole -- outside of swing states -- who have seen political ads. So clearly they're making a difference.

But we ask Americans: Are they affecting your vote? And most Americans said: Of course not. You know, we like to think that we're not subject to being affected by the ads.

Horwich: And that's self-reported data, so people may be affected -- they just don't think they are.

Newport: That's a good insight. Throughout history, Americans have denied that negative ads make much effect on their vote. But of course, the reason political consultants keep running negative ads is they do move the needle in terms of tracking who you're going to support. So I think they have more affect than people want to let on.

Horwich: Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport, thank you.

Newport: My pleasure.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.
Log in to post1 Comment

It is clear to me that the ads do work. All you have to do is read the comments section on any political article on MSNBC to find people hurling sound bites at their enemies.
It is very noticeable they often have no idea what they are talking about and that they are only mimicking what they’ve heard on TV.

With Generous Support From...