Home > BLOG 3 > Potato Chips vs Politics.

Potato Chips vs Politics.

If any of my Korean friends ask me “what is Americans’ favorite snack?’ Definitely I would say, ‘Potato Chips.’ Then how much money American spends on their favorite snacks?According to the American Snack Food association, potato chips sales are somewhere of $ 3.5 billion in every year, and according to the NPR reporting ‘the 2012 presidential election may catch up with potato chips.

 Sooner than later, you will spend more money on politics than potato chips.


In 2008 election, Obama raised historical amount of money for the election, which was about $746 million dollars, and President Obama re-election committee is anticipating to raise more than $1 billion for 2012 campaign as well as GOP is expected to raise similar amount of money for its campaign. It seemed like U.S election is all about money, and as we know, lots of money will be spent for TV advertisement.

In the book ‘Selling of the President’, the author focuses on the Nixon campaign as a primary examples for the birth of TV package advertisement for president candidate; however, the TV advertisement in the president election was actually started from 1952 in which Eisenhower competed with Stevenson. In addition, we might expect that the format, or style of political TV advertisements have been changed a lot since the beginning, but according to the David Schwartz who is a chief curator at the Museum of the Moving image, and has seen almost all of the them said, they are no more than same.

Mr. Schwartz was ‘OnTheMedia’ and said that “For many years the (political) ads sort of stayed the same. They used the same techniques and the same messages. If you were attacking a Democrat you would always say they want to raise your taxes or they’re going to be weak on defense. And if you’re attacking the republicans you can say they don’t care about the working class. They don’t care about people.”

Not only those two candidate biographical advertisements, but also the scary advertisements have been used very widely since 1952, and, of course, both of them in each period lack of actual facts and truth. That means 50 years of American politics’ progress does not guarantee the improvement of dirty political scorning.

However there is one thing keep constantly changing that we should keep in mind is the impact of Political TV advertisements to voters. During the 1952 to 1979, in which there was no cable news channels or internet had invented (Ted Warner founded CNN in 1980) the only sources that voters could get political information was three TV channels, and their local radio stations. So we might imagine that the impact of very well made political Advertisements would have been very powerful and influential. However, since the several cable news channels internet have been used by voters, the influence of TV advertisement keep decreasing because there are too many media outlets that voters can choose of.

According to the Stephen Dubner a journalist, and coauthor of Freakonmics mentioned his research about this topic on ‘OntheMedia’ that”If we try to isolate the causal effect of the money itself, the candidates double the amount he or her spend and raise his or her share of the vote by about one percent” Even though this research was done with the case that the same two candidates ran each other repeatedly in the election, still the result is very shocking. And he pointed out that “the relationship between money and their winning is just correlation and not causal.”

Based on Dubner research, the candidate who raised lots of money, and pour this money to TV advertisements might waste his or her election money, then why we still see lots of dirty political advertisements on the TV in every mid-term or presidential election? Mr. Dubner said, this weird phenomenon is a good indicator of how country Americans are that Americans can afford two billion dollars down the toilet in every midterm election.

Or I think, people in this country still believe money can buy everything not only potato chips but also politics for sure.

  1. March 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Figuring out what “effects” television advertisements have during a campaign is a complex issue. I don’t necessarily agree with the Dubner citation you include here that these ads have no effects, but certainly we shouldn’t think these ads are “magic bullets” that have significant effects on all viewers. We live in a complex media environment, so there are clearly a lot of different sources competing for our attention. And it is only getting more crowded. So, this is an interesting age to study and think about media effects.

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