Purchasing Negativity: Public Opinion on “Super PAC” Advertisements during the 2012 American Presidential Election

Purchasing Negativity: Public Opinion on “Super PAC” Advertisements during the 2012 American Presidential Election
By Jessica Chambers - 2014

This major research paper is a qualitative study of American “Super PAC” advertising during the 2012 American presidential election. Super PACs, a type of “political action committee,” have the ability to collect unlimited funds to advertise on behalf of candidates and parties. Super PACs have attracted criticism from scholars due to the Super PACs’ negativity against opposing candidates. Using Albert Bandura‘s Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication, and existing literature on political advertising, this study explores public opinion on negative television commercials. It employs data collected by The Super PAC App – a mobile application that recorded individual reactions to political advertising. It also employs qualitative content analysis on 20 negative Super PAC advertisements using codes created by political scientist John Geer. The results suggest that users of the App generally disliked negative Super PAC advertisements. Furthermore, the results indicate there are certain characteristics within negative advertisements that make them more liked or disliked by users of the App.