Theories of campaign issue emphasis were developed in a pre-digital era. How well do these theories explain spending in the current era, when digital media allow for targeting of specific types of voters? In this research, we compare how the 2016 campaigns, both primary and general election, deployed television advertising with how they deployed online advertising. We suggest that, because online messages are targeted to specific viewer profiles much more than television messages, television ads should be more likely to discuss highly salient issues and valance issues than online ads. To test these ideas, we rely upon data from the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracked all televised political ads that aired in 2016, and our coding of data from Pathmatics, a company that tracks online advertising. We find, contrary to our expectations, that the predictors of issue discussion online and on television are largely similar.
Franz, Michael M.; Franklin Fowler, Erika; Ridout, Travis; and Wang, Meredith Yiran, "The Issue Focus of Online and Television Advertising in the 2016 Presidential Campaign" (2020). Government Faculty Publications. 6.