Prior research has indicated that exposure to negative political advertising can foster among individuals feelings of alienation, distrust, and apathy toward government or the political process. However, investigation regarding the amount of exposure to such advertising and the form in which it is presented remains scant. This experimental study examined the impact of ad type (character based vs. issue based) and amount of advertising exposures on individuals' cynicism and perceived self-efficacy in relation to the government. Results indicated that issue- based attack ads aired during the 2004 presidential election led to greater cynicism and lower self-efficacy than did character-based attack ads. A significant interaction revealed that the difference on the self-efficacy measure was greatest at the highest exposure level, indicating that continual exposure to ads dealing with governmental policies may nurture the perception that the political process is overly complex, which subsequently can decrease individuals' beliefs that they can make a difference.
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