Effects of Negative Political Ad Campaigns MKT 650 – Dr. Kunz Jeremy Pflug Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a “mudslinger” as one that uses offensive epithets and invective especially against a political opponent. (Merriam-Webster, 2010) Mudslinging has many sources that all stake claim to being its origin. William Safire states that the word derived from some Ancient Latin advice, “Fortiter calumniari, aliquia adhaerebit,” which is translated into “Throw plenty of dirt and some of it will be sure to stick,” as seen in the “The Barber of Seville” in 1775. Safire, 1993) Negative advertisement political campaigns began in the United States all the way back to the time of our founding fathers. In the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Adams was accused of being a monarchist who wanted to move the country to a monarchy under Britain and France, which at the time of the election was a very sensitive subject considering the Revolutionary War was still fresh in the minds of Americans. Thomas Jefferson was accused of being a misogynist and of having an affair with a black slave; which later turned out to be true. Mark, 2007) Thomas Jefferson eventually won this election over John Adams and Aaron Burr (who became the Vice President to Jefferson after the each has the same amount of Electoral Votes and the House of Representatives chose Jefferson as the President of the United States. ) Negative political advertisements began on the television during the 1964 election, pitting President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Republican Senator Barry M. Goldwater. This advertisement only lasted 60 seconds and was only aired one time but its effectiveness set a precedent for many years to come.
The “Daisy Ad” was widely criticized for being over the top and extreme. This 60-second spot featured a little girl picking petals off of a daisy in a field and counting out of sequence just before a voiceover begins a countdown, then follows that by a very strategic image of a nuclear explosion. President Lyndon B. Johnson followed this imagery with these words, “These are the stakes – to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die. (Jones, 2007) This set forth the beginning of advertisements whose sole purpose was to damage an opponent’s view in the public eye. Mark Zuckerberg, states that “In the last hundred years… the way to advertise was to get into the mass media and push your content…” (Holzner, 2009) and candidates have been doing so for many years and with the advancements of technology, candidates can reach people in a one on one setting without every actually meeting that person. Tony Schwartz stated that political parties used to be the means of communication from the candidate to the people.
Political would go on campaign trails and bring news of why their candidate was what was best for the United States of America. These days of the past are over and the new political parties are in the forms of ABC, NBC and CBS. (Kaid, 1993) In 2009, The Fox News Channel was the number one rated cable news network for 86 consecutive months and I believe this streak is still intact today. (Guthrie, 2009) Americans rely on television news stations as their main source of information along with the internet.
It is almost unheard of a television channel not having their own website that updates the same information that they reveal in their programs and then update then instantly to their viewers. This relay of information brings many new challenges for political leaders and their campaign directors as they seek out inventive ways to attractive consumers… aka the people of the United States. Mudslinging has many effects and yet the underlying question is whether or not these campaign advertisements are doing any real justice for the political campaign trail or are they just damaging both candidates???
What is the true impact that a negative advertisement has on a campaign? Does it truly impact the people of the United States and pander to the emotions of each individual person or do these malicious attacks on one another take away from the true meaning of the campaign and turn people away from the voting because they do not know which person is of the lesser evil… One hypothesis is called the Stimulation Hypothesis and it suggests that people will turn out to vote once they experience some sort of difficulty or unfavorable change that will affect their way of living. Southwell, 1988) This negative attention draws people to the polls in order and creates a larger number of registered voters than in the previous election. Negative advertisement political campaigns have become a “guilty pleasure” of Americans. (Martin, 2004) It is like watching a video of a horrific event such as a car accident or an engulfing tornado whose destruction hurts many people however no matter how destructing the nature of event is our society cannot pry ourselves away from watching the event.
These negative advertisements have the affect of a sit-com and the people cannot wait to see what is next. The thought process behind the stimulation process is that negative advertising is equal or more informative than positive advertising. This information in turn acquires more interest. These interested voters are likely to vote and finally this will increase turn out in response to exposure to this negative advertising. Zaller, 1992) This hypothesis was analyzed in the 1996 elections and based on an article Goldstein and Freedman, they argued that there is good reason to expect vigorous campaign attacks to stimulate voters: by engaging voters, by raising interest, and by communicating the notion that something important is at stake in the outcome of an election, negative ads (whether they are “contrast” ads or “pure negative” spots) should be more likely to stimulate than depress voter turnout. 2002) A spinoff of the stimulation hypothesis is the Differential Effects which play off the emotions of the people of the United States. These differential effects are advertisements that affect the turnout if the advertisement addresses an issue of political concern to the voter. (Clinton & Lapinski, 2004) The differential effects like the mobilizations hypothesis occur when people are getting information from candidates that affect them. In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama played the people of the United States by encouraging “change” as this became the backbone of his campaign.
The more that Sen. McCain negatively ran advertisements against the Sen. Obama the more imbedded these ideals of change became to the people of the U. S. The emotion that change was needed in order for not only ourselves to become successful but that the future of our children’s lives were at stake was the effect differential effect that Sen. Obama had over Sen. McCain. The Demobilization Hypothesis counters the stimulation hypothesis and argues that there is a relationship that exists between the negatively correlated trending variables of voter turnout and campaign negativity. Ansolabehere and Iyengar 1995) With the demobilization hypothesis, negative advertising is believed to have a destructive effect on the voting “Independents” since attack campaigns “heighten the partisan flavor of political discourse” and drive “the Independent voter from the active electorate” by breeding “distrust of the electoral process and pessimism about the value of an individual’s own voice. ” (1995) During the 1988 Presidential Campaign, a Newsweek article said, “Voters are fed up and turned off by a hail of mudslinging.
But it’s likely to get worse as both sides step up their attack-man ads. ” (Garramone, 1990) The people of the United States based on this hypothesis want to see candidates for who they really are; their moral background, what their views on the issues really are, how they plan to achieve the goals and promises that they make and not how the candidate that they running against isn’t telling the truth about his plan or voting history.
The negative advertisements are seemingly a he said/she said playground tiff and the voters are tired of wading through all the mudslinging to get down to the actual factual information. Research has show that the transfer of attitudes recursively (TAR) effects have shown that communicators often acquire the valence they ascribe to others, such that people who communicate positive attitudes about others acquire a positive valence whereas people who communicate negative attitudes about others acquire a negative valence. Carraro, 2009) These provide more evidence that people do not appreciate slander of another person. People want to hear the truth about the candidate themselves and not necessarily what that other candidate has done negatively. Another negative finding is that these political candidates are pandering to huge businesses and accepting campaign funding in order to have a say in the agenda of that candidate. In the 2008 elections, total spending on political advertising this year by candidates and interest groups reached at least $2. billion, the highest amount ever in a presidential election year. About 2 billion of that money was allocated towards television advertisements. Many of us have seen political campaign advertisements that in the end an over voice states, “Paid for by…” Walter Shapiro of Time Magazine states, “Negative advertisement spots are pandering to large contributors… “They” are largely responsible for public cynicism toward politics. That is why it may be wiser to target the attack ads themselves rather than the brutal cost pressures that make them necessary. (Mayer, 1996) Shapiro makes a very valuable assessment of the opinion that the public has towards negative advertisements because they understand where the money is coming from. The public views this as a political candidate is accepting money for a bill to be passed or an issue to be brought before the government that has a direct impact of the company that gave the contribution. I believe that there is a direct effect on people based on their own personality. I feel that people will chose to hear what they want about a candidate and become educated about that persona and then make a decision.
There is evidence that negative advertisements in these political campaigns provide boosts for the candidate that makes the claim about the other however there is too much evidence that can refute this claim and say that because of the negative ad, this candidate has not only hurt the candidate that they are running against but has also damaged their own character and integrity because they need this negativity to win over the people of the United States. Robert Collier said, “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference.
That little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative. ” With this quote, I believe the entire argument is for either side is summed up. They are both correct and the effects of the advertisements directly correlate to what type of person sees the advertisement. References Ansolabehere, Stephen, and Shanto Iyengar. (1995) Going Negative: How Political Advertising Shrinks and Polarizes the Electorate. New York: Free Press. Carraro, Luciana. (2009) Gawronski,Bertram. Castelli, Luigi.