Context: Understanding the role of drug-related issues in political campaign advertising can provide insight on the salience of this issue and the priorities of candidates for elected office. This study sought to quantify the share of campaign advertising mentioning drugs in the 2012 and 2016 election cycles and to estimate the association between local drug overdose mortality and drug mentions in campaign advertising across US media markets. Methods: The analysis used descriptive and spatial statistics to examine geographic variation in campaign advertising mentions of drugs across all 210 US media markets, and it used multivariable regression to assess area-level factors associated with that variation. Findings: The share of campaign ads mentioning drugs grewfrom0.5%in the 2012 election cycle to 1.6% in the 2016 cycle. In the 2016 cycle, ads airing in media markets with overdose mortality rates in the 95th percentile were more than three times as likely to mention drugs as ads airing in areas with overdose mortality rates in the 5th percentile. Conclusions: A small proportion of campaign advertising mentioned drug-related issues. In the 2016 cycle, the issue was more prominent in advertising in areas hardest hit by the drug overdose crisis and in advertising for local races.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Jeff Niederdeppe is a professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. His research examines the mechanisms and effects of mass media campaigns, strategic health messages, and news coverage in shaping health behavior, health disparities, and social policy. He publishes his work across disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals in fields of communication, public health, health policy, and medicine, and his work has been funded in recent years by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Alene Kennedy-Hendricks is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy. Her research focuses on the impact of health and social policies on populations with substance use and mental health conditions. She also conducts research on the politics of policy making related to substance use, addiction, and the role of stigma. firstname.lastname@example.org Erika Franklin Fowler is a professor of government at Wesleyan University and codirector of the Wesleyan Media Project. Her research examines the content and effect of media messaging in electoral and health policy contexts. Her work has appeared in such outlets as the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Communication, and Health Affairs. Her health-related research in recent years has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.
This research was supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (grant no. 73619) and the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study sponsors had no role in the study design, analysis, interpretation, or preparation of this article. We appreciate the contributions of Christopher Frenier of the University of Minnesota and the numerous student-researchers at Wesleyan and Cornell Universities.
Sarah E. Gollust is an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota and is an associate director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leaders. Her research examines the influence of the media and public opinion in the health policy process, the dissemination of research into policy making, and the politics of health policy. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.
© 2021 by Duke University Press.
- Drug overdose
- Political campaign advertising
- Political campaigns
- Public opinion
- Substance use
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't