Campaign videos uploaded to YouTube tend to be more positive than traditional television ads, particularly in the United States.
"YouTube videos are more positive than TV advertisements because they are more narrowly targeted to the highly informed, highly motivated, usually supportive people who view a candidate's online videos.," according to the report released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution. The study was conducted by Rob Salmond, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan.
The study examined 3,118 YouTube videos uploaded by 72 parties in 12 countries and found videos posted only to YouTube tended to be more positive than those that appeared on both television and the video sharing site.
For example, the report found that most (73 percent) of the campaign videos that then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama put exclusively on YouTube during his successful 2008 run for the White House were positive, while 56 percent of videos that ran on both YouTube and television were negative. His Republican rival, John McCain, also tended to put more negative ads on television than on YouTube alone.
One reason for the differences in tone between the two mediums is that watching a campaign video on YouTube requires more action by a user than watching a political ad on TV, the study found. Plus, it costs next to nothing to post YouTube videos, so they can be longer and more detailed than TV ads, which need to make a quick and often negative point.
"TV attack videos, often limited to 60, 30, or even 15 seconds in length, have to make a general point quickly," Salmond wrote.
Salmond also found that the audience for YouTube-only campaign videos tends to be younger, richer, better educated and more politically active and partisan than the overall population.
The study also noted differences in the tone of YouTube videos based on the type of electoral system in each country studied. "This bifurcation between a sunny YouTube presence and a mean-spirited television ad campaign is stronger in US-style winner-take-all elections than in European-style proportional elections, and has major consequences for the character of campaigning and how candidates are seen by voters," the report added.