If you use Facebook, and about two-thirds of Americans do based on current estimates, you may have noticed plenty of political ads as the campaigns heated up last year.

Travis Ridout.

A group of political scientists, which includes Washington State University’s Travis Ridout, has gone beyond noticing such things to quantifying the use of Facebook by political campaigns.

Facebook ads weren’t as likely as television to be used for issues because the viewer’s attention span is so short, said Ridout, who is the Thomas S. Foley distinguished professor of government and public policy and the director of WSU’s School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs.

“It’s a criticism we used to level at TV,” he said. But with television, a campaign could always count on some viewers being too lazy to change the channel and picking up the message. With social media platforms, ads can be dismissed with the swipe of a finger on a smart phone screen. “They really have to capture your attention in the first seconds.”

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