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In political battles over contested issues, direct-to-public persuasion is key to gaining public support. Important differences in how voters respond to industry side versus activist side persuasion show that activist arguments have the greatest impact on voting and other outcomes. The research results show that the industry and activist sides should follow different strategies, and caution that competing campaigns do not have an equal opportunity to persuade the public
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Seiders, Kathleen, Andrea Godfrey Flynn & Gergana Nenkov (2021), “How Industries Use Direct-to-Public Persuasion in Policy Conflicts: Asymmetries in Public Voting Responses,” Journal of Marketing.
Industries use persuasion strategies to gain public support when challenged by activist groups on consumer-relevant issues. This marketing practice, termed direct-to-public persuasion, has received limited attention in the field, and thus we have little understanding of when such campaigns fail or succeed. This research introduces a theoretically derived and empirically supported framework that draws from multiple areas, including marketing persuasion, political campaign strategy, sociopolitical legitimacy, and perceptual fit, to identify important differences in the effectiveness of these persuasion strategies on attitudes and voting behavior. The multimethod approach includes a field study of ballot measure voting during a national U.S. election and three experimental studies. The findings contribute new knowledge of asymmetries in public response to industry and activist arguments. Stronger arguments from both sides lead to more favorable outcomes, but activist groups benefit most. Suspicion of activist arguments weakens the impact on attitudes and voting; industry argument suspicion has limited impact, though it does increase the likelihood of voter switching. A financial argumentation strategy works best for the industry side, while societal argumentation is more effective for the activist side. The insights offer guidance for industries and activist groups as argument strategy success is contingent on the side that uses it
Special thanks to Holly Howe (Ph.D. candidate at Duke University) and Demi Oba (Ph.D. candidate at Duke University), for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program.
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