In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Political Advertising

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Historical/Background Information
  • Archives and Resource Materials
  • Anthologies
  • Legal and Regulatory Perspectives
  • Study Methodologies
  • Women Candidates
  • Issue or Advocacy Advertising
  • News Coverage
  • International Advertising
  • Ethical Considerations

Communication Political Advertising
Lynda Lee Kaid, Annabel Cherry, Maridith Miles
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 December 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0032


The study of political advertising encompasses research on how political candidates, parties, and interest groups use mass media messages to persuade voters, policymakers, and the general public that their viewpoint excels that of all the opposition. Political advertising constitutes the dominant form of communication for candidates in the United States and is an important promotional format in democracies around the world. In the United States, political advertising usually must be purchased by the sponsors, but in other countries such advertising may be paid, provided free on public communication outlets, or a combination of paid and free messages. Political advertising research has concentrated primarily on television and frequently at the presidential level, but also includes messages distributed via radio, newspapers, posters and other public display formats, direct mail, and, recently, the Internet. Most studies are concerned with the content of political advertising messages and their effects. Effects are often measured in terms of how well political advertising communicates information; influences evaluations or opinions of candidates, parties, and issues; and affects voting or other behavioral outcomes.


As a textbook for undergraduates, West 2010 provides a focused, descriptive, and analytical account of political ads in US elections. More suitable for graduate students, Kaid and Holtz-Bacha 2006 offers a global perspective that emphasizes a more detailed analysis of political advertising content and effects in individual chapters that cover specific countries or regions. Also worth considering as required or supplemental texts for undergraduate courses are Diamond and Bates 1992 and Jamieson 1996, cited under Historical/Background Information.

  • Kaid, Lynda Lee, and Christina Holtz-Bacha, eds. 2006. The SAGE handbook of political advertising. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    More useful for graduate students, this volume comprises chapters summarizing research on political advertising in more than thirty countries. Basic information on media and political systems is incorporated into the summaries, which address both content and effects of political advertising. Chapters also provide comparisons of content and effects across countries.

  • West, Darrell M. 2010. Air wars: Television advertising in election campaigns, 1952–2008. 5th ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly.

    Useful for undergraduates, this updated edition examines the history and use of political advertising from 1952 through 2008. Incorporating many examples, the book contains an overview of ad messages, examines buying airtime, and discusses media coverage of ads.

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