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An Ironic Consequence of Political Advertising Regulation

Jung, Minah H. and Critcher, Clayton R., Offering of a Veneer of Legitimacy: An Ironic Consequence of Political Advertising Regulation (June 9, 2014). Available at SSRN:

Aimed at discouraging negative political advertising, recent American political regulations require candidates to “Stand By Your Ad” (SBYA; i.e., “My name is _____, an I approve this message…”). Experimental and field evidence converge to suggest SBYA ironically incentivizes some negative ads by enhancing their credibility, and in turn, evaluations of the sponsoring candidates. We found that SBYA-backed ads benefited because the tagline’s association with regulation lends a confidence-inspiring veneer of legitimacy, not because candidates made an implicit promise of truthfulness in saying they “approve this message,” nor because participants explicitly reasoned that the regulation must have prompted candidates to air truer content. The SBYA tagline had this ironic effect for ads that inspire the most skepticism (negative ads), but that would be informative if true (policy-focused ads), but not for ads of other varieties (positive or character-focused ads). We discuss how these findings relate to other ironic effects of regulation.”

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