CITGO Damage Control Judged Effective

Results of a national study released today revealed that while a CITGO public service ad elicited positive responses from Americans toward Venezuela and its president, the majority viewed the ad as a political tool.

The study was conducted among 404 Americans during January 14-15 to obtain Americans’ views on an advertisement in which Congressman Joe Kennedy credits CITGO — a Venezuelan-based company — as the only oil company that donated fuel to help underprivileged Americans heat their homes. The communications research study was conducted by HCD Research and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

While viewing the advertisement, participants indicated their levels of believability by moving their mouse from left to right on a continuum. The responses were recorded in quarter-second intervals and reported in the form of curves. Participants were also asked pre- and post-viewing questions.

Among the findings:

Which of the following best describes the purpose of the advertisement?
* An attempt to boost CITGO’s corporate image — 37%
* An attempt to embarrass President Bush within his own country — 20%
* Venezuela is attempting to assist Americans in need — 15%
* An attempt to promote Congressman Joe Kennedy — 15%
* An attempt to improve Venezuela’s image — 13%

Do you believe that Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela is sincerely interested in helping economically challenged Americans obtain energy for heating their homes?

Prior to viewing the CITGO Ad * Yes — 13%
* No — 52%
* Don’t know — 35%

After viewing the CITGO Ad * Yes — 29%
* No — 45%
* Don’t know — 27%

Which of the following best describes your view of Hugo Chavez?
Prior to viewing the CITGO Ad * Highly favorable — 3%
* Somewhat favorable — 11%
* Somewhat unfavorable — 21%
* Highly Unfavorable — 30%
* Not sure — 35%

After viewing the CITGO Ad
* Highly favorable — 20%
* Somewhat favorable — 44%
* Somewhat unfavorable — 8%
* Highly Unfavorable — 3%
* Not sure — 25%

"The CITGO advertisement appears to have positive effect on Americans’ perceptions of the Venezuelan people and quite significantly increased their favorability of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela," explained Glenn Kessler, president and CEO of HCD Research. "If the objective was to improve the image of Venezuela, it worked."

"The automated response curves showed a significant decrease in believability as the narrator, Joe Kennedy, suggests that our government cut fuel assistance and that American energy companies were unresponsive. Democrats, Republicans and independents all dramatically decreased their levels of believability," Kessler concluded.

The Media Curves web site provides the media and general public with a venue to view Americans’ perceptions of popular and controversial media events and advertisements.

"While most Americans see the commercial as more of a political tool than a real attempt to help the needy get heating oil in the U.S., the ad does succeed at marginally increasing the standing of both Venezuela and Hugo Chavez," said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

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