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    Study: CITGO Campaign Improved Perceptions of Chavez

    Even though more than a third of respondents saw campaign as an attempt to boost CITGO's image.

    FLEMINGTON, N.J. -- A television advertisement featuring Mass. Congressman Joe Kennedy, who credits CITGO as the only oil company that donated fuel to help underprivileged Americans heat their homes, has improved Americans' perceptions of Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chavez, according to a national study conducted by communications research company HCD Research and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

    The survey found that while 37 percent saw the ad as an attempt to boost CITGO's corporate image, one fifth of respondents saw it as an attempt to embarrass President Bush within his country.

    In addition, 15 percent stated the purpose was to show Venezuela attempting to assist Americans in need, and another 15 percent saw it as an attempt to promote Congressman Joe Kennedy. In addition, 13 percent believed it was an attempt to improve Venezuela's image, according to HCD Research.

    "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," Glenn Kessler, president and CEO of HCD Research, said in a statement. "If the objective was to improve the image of Venezuela, it worked."

    Prior to viewing the ad, 13 percent of respondents believed Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, was sincerely interested in helping Americans obtain energy to heat their homes. After viewing the ad, the number increased to 29 percent.
     
    In addition, respondents' view of Chavez increased after viewing the ad. The survey found that prior to viewing, only 3 percent had a highly favorable view of Chavez, while after, 20 percent held that view.

    Similarly, prior to viewing the ad, nearly a third of respondents had a highly unfavorable view of Chavez, and after viewing the ad, the number dropped to 3 percent of respondents, according to the study.
     
    "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 United States, the ad does succeed at marginally increasing the standing of both Venezuela and Hugo Chavez," Chris Borick Ph.D., director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, said in a statement.

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