Do Listeners Trust Male or Female Voiceover Recordings More?

Apr 29, 2016

Unfortunately, for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, political advertising is everywhere. If you try and escape from the barrage of attack ads by scrolling through your social media feeds, then you'll still get hit with non-stop Bernie Sanders and Trump supporters urging you to "Feel the Bern" or "Make Donald Trump Again."

The insane amounts of money these candidates are spending on radio advertising is mind boggling, but a new study reveals some interesting new information about voiceover recordings.

Researchers from the University of Albany, in New York, listened to 7,000 different political ads from 2010 to 2012 and discovered that male voiceover artists were used twice as much as women. The study found that 63% of the ads used male voiceover artists; 28% used female voiceover artists; while 9% of the ads used both genders. The study's other findings actually defied political stereotypes.

Not only were male politicians more likely to use women for voiceover recordings, but Republicans were also more likely to use women's voices than Democrats. There was one exception to the latter finding: "the more Democratic the district or state, the more likely the ad featured a woman's voice-over, suggesting that audience characteristics enter into campaigns' choices about the content of ads."

"One of our most striking findings is also the most basic -- men's voices dominate political advertising by more than a two-to-one ratio," said lead author, Patricia Strach. She added, "However, we can find no good reason for this disparity. In many circumstances, men and women as voice-over announcers are equally effective. And, at times, it is more advantageous to use women's voices."

According to an old radio advertising superstition, 'attack ads' are less likely to backfire when women's voices are used to soften the blows. Plus, female voiceover recordings were more common in ads about education or family values while male voice talent was used for issues like national defense.

Whether the voice-over recordings are for a television ad or radio advertising, these types of ads are a mainstay of political campaigns in 2016 America. As the second most wide-reaching medium in the country today, some 13,500 radio stations reach 59% of the country on a daily basis. Every week, at least 236 million people listen to the radio, which doesn't even account for streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.

And while you might think that listening to 7,000 political advertisements would be enough to drive anyone insane, the researchers persevered long enough to publish the study, "In a Different Voice? Explaining the Use of Men and Women as Voice-over Announcers in Political Advertising".