Election 2008


Negative Campaigns Aren’t All Bad

April 02, 2008 10:45 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Attack ads and mudslinging may be an unpleasant part of election season, but the authors of a new book say they help to educate the public.

30-Second Summary

Many voters find negative political ads off-putting.

But while negative ads can be unfair, nasty and false, they can also be helpful in relaying useful facts to voters, says Steve Chapman at Reason Magazine. Attack ads remind us that politicians are flawed figures who do not always do the right thing.

“In fact, if it weren’t for attacks on the air and on the stump, our campaigns might have all the nutritional content of a Coke Zero,” Chapman says. 

Television campaign ads are like “multivitamins” of political information, making facts easier to swallow, says University of Virginia politics professor Paul Freedman and his colleagues in their new book “Campaign Advertising and American Democracy.” Ads, particularly negative ones, can raise interest in issues, help people make informed choices at the ballot box, and increase the likelihood that they will vote.

The presidential candidates this season have so far stayed away from extremely vicious ads. Delaware State University political science professor Dr. Sam Hoff says it is because they know that the ads can backfire.

“I have seen mud-slinging backfire so much that candidates have put out commercials apologizing and asking for another chance because of what happened,” he said. 

Barack Obama has made a point of avoiding negativity and cheap shots, but recent attacks by the Clinton campaign, including the “Debate” and the “3 a.m.” television ads, have pushed him to go on the offensive, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks.

He says that once Obama responds, it will go against the core theory of his campaign.
 “You can’t really win with the new style of politics. Sooner or later, you have to play by the conventional rules,” Brooks says.

Headline Link: ‘Do Negative Political Ads Work?’

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Some Positive Thoughts About Negative Campaigning’

Negative ads can backfire

Video: This season’s attack ads

Related Topics: ‘Clinton, Obama Launch Negative Ads’

Related Topics: ‘Clinton Focuses on Pennsylvania’s Catholic Electorate’

Reference: ‘Campaign advertising and American Democracy’


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