Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Ads and Elections

Christine Chambers Goodman, Pepperdine University School of Law, has published M)Ad Men: Using Persuasion Factors in Media Advertisements to Prevent a ‘Tyranny of the Majority’ on Ballot Propositions. Here is the abstract. 

 

Some find the rise in direct democracy to be a clear and present danger to the interests of minority groups when ballot measures curtail minority group rights. In the past, at-large election schemes have diluted minority voting strength; initiatives, which are really "'at-large elections' on issues instead of candidates" can have the same effect. There is an argument that ballot propositions serve their function well, allowing the people to express their will through direct democracy, in a way that finds each voter on the winning side of many initiative campaigns. The argument is based on the rationale that the varied factions and special interests of society would prevent a majority from coming to agreement on any law that would be unjust or would not promote the general welfare. The outcome is different in the category of initiatives that directly target minorities. Given that such initiatives generally involve curtailing, rather than expanding, minority rights, it is not surprising that with most of these initiatives, the losing side was the one that the majority of minority voters selected. Goodman points out that even blocks as large as the voting majority in the state of California can perceive that it is in their interest to infringe on the rights of minorities as they did with the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 in 1996 and the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in 2008. When research on voting patterns is extended beyond the state of California, one finds that initiatives restricting civil rights are approved by voters at a much greater rate than initiatives generally. In Part II of this article, Goodman begins with a brief explanation of the history and justifications for direct democracy and then addresses challenges and critiques of this method of legislating. She then analyzes social science literature to promulgate a list of six "persuasion factors" that operate in ballot campaigns to influence voter decision-making. In Part III Goodman analyzes the print, internet, and audio-visual advertisements for the anti-affirmative action ballot measures in the 2008 election cycle, evaluating how the media campaigns made use of the persuasion factors to influence election outcomes. Part IV proposes solutions for lessening the impact of media bias and persuasion "tricks", to provide voters with more accurate information about the ballot measures that they face in each election.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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