Just Say No(thing)?
Between 1999 and 2004, the U.S. government spent nearly $1 billion on an anti-drug advertising campaign that doesn’t seem to have delivered the desired results—and may actually have made teenagers more likely to indulge in illicit pleasures. So concludes a long-term study led by Robert Hornik, the Wilbur Schramm Professor of Communication and Health Policy at the Annenberg School for Communication.
Remember those omnipresent TV spots with taglines like “Soccer: My Anti-Drug”? So did 94 percent of the more than 5,000 youths interviewed repeatedly by Hornik and his colleagues during the course of the campaign. Most of them caught two or three ads per week—on the radio and in magazines as well as television. But the message appeared to have no effect, and those who encountered it most often were in fact slightly more likely to try marijuana down the road.
One possible explanation supported by the data, the authors suggested in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health, is that “antidrug advertising conveys an implicit meta-message that drug use is commonplace,” leading the target audience to consider it normal behavior.
The Geniuses of Democracy
Pop quiz. Which presidential candidate supported federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research: John McCain, Barack Obama, neither, or both? And while we’re at it, who favored closing the Guantanamo Bay prison?
If you are like some 90 percent of the American adults surveyed by the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey two weeks before the election, you picked the wrong answer to those questions. (And we’re not letting you off the hook; the correct responses are printed below.)
Despite their subjection to nearly two years’ worth of campaigning, many voters were in apparent need of remedial lessons on the policy positions of the last two contenders standing. Of 11 questions addressing fairly well-publicized issues, there were seven in which more than half of the respondents chose the correct multiple-choice answer. A question about which candidate opposed the war in Iraq drew the largest percentage of right answers, with almost 80 percent of respondents naming Barack Obama. Voters seemed to be haziest about the candidates’ positions on free trade.
“It does not appear that much learning about the candidates’ issue positions has taken place during the general election campaign,” observed Kate Kenski, a senior analyst for the survey. The Annenberg Survey did not attempt to evaluate whether the more than $1 billion spent on the race for the White House altered the drug habits of ad-soaked American teens. —T.P.
Answers: Both candidates supported federal funding for stem-cell research, and both favored closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
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