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Gender goggles: Does candidate gender impact viewer perception of negativity in campaign advertisements?

Welch, Leigh
Political campaign advertisements are a common staple for current campaign efforts, and negative advertisements in particular are a popular campaign tool. It is evident both male and female candidates often attempt to win elections by tearing down opponents through the use of negative campaign advertisements. What is unclear is whether viewers perceive the message a candidate presents to be more or less negative based on the gender of the candidate sponsoring the ad, and where the perception of negativity in an ad impacts candidate favorability. An experimental study was conducted to determine if a candidate’s gender impacts the viewer’s perception of message negativity. A political advertisement was written and filmed once with a male candidate, and once with a female candidate. This advertisement was shown to separate groups who were then asked to complete a questionnaire regarding the treatment they were exposed to. Findings show that there are significant results that show a correlation between certain perceived message tones and gender of the candidate. Additionally, there were interesting results regarding candidate favorability.