HPU/News & Record Poll: N.C. Likely Voters Split on the Effects of Negative Campaign Ads

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 15, 2014 – North Carolina is experiencing a heavy season of negative campaign advertising. Likely voters in the state are split on the effect these ads have on their own beliefs, as well as the beliefs of others, about the two major candidates – Sen. Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis. Many likely voters also think that it is easier for themselves to determine the sponsor of political advertisements, while they do not think it is easy for other voters to do so.

The HPU/News & Record Poll found that many voters – 45 percent – don’t think the ads have much of an effect on their own beliefs and opinions about the two candidates. Meanwhile, 39 percent agreed or somewhat agreed that their own beliefs had been affected by the ads.

Those surveyed were more likely to think the ads had an impact on the beliefs of others than their own. Sixty-seven percent strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that the opinion and beliefs of most other voters have been affected by the ads. Just 14 percent strongly or somewhat disagreed that other voters’ beliefs had not been affected.

“This is a relatively concrete illustration of what communication researchers call the third person effect. That is, people often believe that media messages have less of an effect on them than on the average person,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll. “These findings are a reminder that it is sometimes difficult for us as viewers and voters to determine reliably who is most affected by this intense campaign season we are experiencing.”

Regardless of how they say ads affect their beliefs, 49 percent of those surveyed do not think it is always easy for most voters to know who is sponsoring the political advertisements they are seeing on TV, while a sizable majority (58 percent) of likely voters say it is easy for themselves to know who is sponsoring the ads.

 

Now I want you to tell me whether you agree or disagree with statements about the advertising for the 2014 U.S. Senate election.

 

Likely Voters – Do you Strongly Agree, Agree Somewhat, Neither Agree nor Disagree, Disagree Somewhat, or Strongly Disagree that:

 

YOUR beliefs and opinions about the two major candidates have been affected by the negative campaign ads you’ve seen.

Strongly agree – 17 percent

Agree somewhat – 22 percent

Neither agree nor disagree – 11 percent

Disagree somewhat – 19 percent

Strongly disagree – 26 percent

Don’t know/refuse –   6 percent

 

Most voters’ beliefs and opinions about the two major candidates have been affected by the negative campaign ads.     

Strongly agree – 28 percent

Agree somewhat – 39 percent

Neither agree nor disagree – 8 percent

Disagree somewhat – 8 percent

Strongly disagree – 6 percent

Don’t know/refuse – 10 percent

                       

It is always easy for you to know who is sponsoring political advertisements you see on television.   

Strongly agree – 33 percent

Agree somewhat – 25 percent

Neither agree nor disagree – 3 percent

Disagree somewhat – 17 percent

Strongly disagree – 19 percent

Don’t know/refuse – 5 percent

 

It is always easy for most voters to know who is sponsoring political advertisements they see on television.

Strongly agree – 18 percent

Agree somewhat – 21 percent

Neither agree nor disagree – 5 percent

Disagree somewhat – 21 percent

Strongly disagree – 28 percent

Don’t know/refuse – 6 percent

 

The High Point University Survey Research Center fielded the North Carolina version of this survey with live interviewers calling between Sept. 30 and Oct. 9, 2014. The responses came from 584 likely voters with landline (277 interviews) or cellular (307 interviews) telephones. First, the HPU Poll identified registered voters using a Registration Based Sampling (Voter List Sample) system that selected possible respondents from a statewide, North Carolina list of registered voters that had landline and cell phone numbers appended by a contractor. Likely voters were estimated by asking a screening question: “On November 4, North Carolina will hold its general election for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and other offices. How certain are you that you will vote in this election? Are you almost certain to vote, you probably will vote, your chances of voting are 50/50, or you will not vote in the November 2014 general election?” The only registered voters who passed the screen were those who responded “almost certain” or “probably” to the screening question AND voted in the 2010 general election in North Carolina, registered in North Carolina after 2010 and voted in the 2012 general election, or registered in North Carolina since 2012. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample, which was originally compiled by Aristotle (Washington, D.C.). The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.1 percentage points for this population of respondents. The data are weighted toward estimated turn out figures for age, gender and race based on North Carolina Board of Elections data and exit polls from past campaigns. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SurveyResearchCenter and Twitter at http://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the assistant director of the HPU Poll.

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