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Social media messaging and public health campaigns: Prop 29

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Investigator(s): John Pierce, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2013 (Cycle 22) Grant #: 22RT-0144 Award: $290,315
Subject Area: Industry Influence/Policy
Award Type: Research Project Awards
Abstracts

Initial Award Abstract

Increasing cigarette price is one way to reduce smoking behavior and later tobacco-related disease and death. On June 5, 2012 Californians voted on Proposition 29, an initiative which would have added $1 to the state excise tax on cigarettes and provided revenues to support cancer research and partially fund the statewide tobacco control program. Proposition 29’s narrow failure at the ballot box represents the second time such an initiative has failed in the past decade. In both instances, 3 months prior to the vote there appeared to be strong public support for these initiatives. In each case, there was an onslaught of tobacco industry media advertising in the state and both initiatives were defeated. However, other recent California political campaigns have overcome major imbalances in mass media campaigning. An analysis of impactful media messages during the dueling Prop 20 campaigns may help identify better campaign strategies for future excise tax initiatives in California.

Social media use has spread rapidly in recent years and Proposition 29 is the first cigarette tax increase proposed since the social media revolution. This study will collect data from traditional and social media footprints and analyze media strategies and practices that may have influenced California voters during the Proposition 29 campaign. We have data available for the 6 month period prior to the vote on marketing and coverage of the issue on television, radio, print and digital news. In addition, from another project, we have data from social networks, microblogs, blogs, video sharing, associated comments, and search engine analytics. The study team will use standard tools to sort through and code this mammoth dataset and estimate the extent of “Yes on 29” and “No on 29” media activity during this period. We will characterize the content of the media messages on both sides; and examine metadata to determine the message sources on either side of the argument. Finally, we will compare descriptive statistics on these data looking for temporal trends in the associations between traditional media and social media coverage. These analyses will inform ways in which future tobacco control initiatives may be more successful. We will test the following hypotheses.

Increasing cigarette price is one way to reduce smoking behavior and later tobacco-related disease and death. On June 5, 2012 Californians voted on Proposition 29, an initiative which would have added $1 to the state excise tax on cigarettes and provided revenues to support cancer research and partially fund the statewide tobacco control program. Proposition 29’s narrow failure at the ballot box represents the second time such an initiative has failed in the past decade. In both instances, 3 months prior to the vote there appeared to be strong public support for these initiatives. In each case, there was an onslaught of tobacco industry media advertising in the state and both initiatives were defeated. However, other recent California political campaigns have overcome major imbalances in mass media campaigning. An analysis of impactful media messages during the dueling Prop 20 campaigns may help identify better campaign strategies for future excise tax initiatives in California.

Social media use has spread rapidly in recent years and Proposition 29 is the first cigarette tax increase proposed since the social media revolution. This study will collect data from traditional and social media footprints and analyze media strategies and practices that may have influenced California voters during the Proposition 29 campaign. We have data available for the 6 month period prior to the vote on marketing and coverage of the issue on television, radio, print and digital news. In addition, from another project, we have data from social networks, microblogs, blogs, video sharing, associated comments, and search engine analytics. The study team will use standard tools to sort through and code this mammoth dataset and estimate the extent of “Yes on 29” and “No on 29” media activity during this period. We will characterize the content of the media messages on both sides; and examine metadata to determine the message sources on either side of the argument. Finally, we will compare descriptive statistics on these data looking for temporal trends in the associations between traditional media and social media coverage. These analyses will inform ways in which future tobacco control initiatives may be more successful.

We will test the following hypotheses.

1) The “No on Prop 29” messages across both traditional and social media reached higher levels of exposure and engagement than did “Yes on 29” messages.

2) There will be evidence that the “No on 29” campaign used social media monitoring to adapt the amount and content of traditional media messages in the 6 weeks prior to the scheduled vote, much more than did the “Yes on 29” campaign.

3a) No on 29” messages on social media were more likely to have originated from organized/corporate sources/accounts, which can be traced back to the tobacco industry

3b)“Yes on 29” messages on social media were more likely to have originated from individual activists without corporate or related organizational affiliations.

4a)There will be evidence from Google search query analyses that the Los Angeles Times editorial resulted in observable spikes in public interest related to Prop 29, an effect which was specific to Southern California.

4b)Advertising on traditional media drove social media conversation related to Prop 29. This hypothesis suggests that we will find evidence that the “No on 29” campaign monitored social media to titrate campaign expenditures spent to defeat Proposition 29.

4c)The statistics available from social media (e.g. ‘liking’ on Facebook; number of relevant Twitter messages; YouTube views, shares and comments; Google search analytics) will indicate that there were significant events related to each of the Proposition 29 campaigns that engaged the population.