The New York Times reported that 92 percent of adverts in the final week of the Florida primary were negative. But, do they really work?
Well, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t effective in the Sunshine state. Mitt Romney achieved crushing numbers against his opponent Newt Gingrich in Tuesday’s primary. Romney secured 47 percent of the vote compared to Gingrich’s 31 percent.
But even though the negative ads were effective, they left voters turned off. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that voter turnout in Florida fell 14 percent in the 2008 primary, so could the wave of negative ads that swept Florida have affected the voter turnout?
Arthur Paulson, chair of the political science department, said he believes so.
“Negative ads tend to have a negative impact on voter turnout,” said Paulson.
Paulson also said he believes that in the grand scheme of campaigning, the ads are irrelevant.
“Most of these ads are based on the assumption you, the voter, are both uninformed and stupid,” said Paulson. “No one who knows anything worth knowing about politics can pay any attention to these ads.”
But, Paulson added, there was some unusual voter-activity during this primary.
“Most Florida voters, according to exit poll data, actually did say the ads had some impact on their choice,” he said.
Mitt Romney should have been hoping for that unusual statistic. After all, his campaign spent a combined $15.4 million on TV and radio advertising in Florida alone. In comparison to previous years, in 2008, John McCain spent a total $11 million on ads during the entire primary season.
The students at SCSU seem unanimous in their opinion on negative ads: untrustworthy and bad for politics.
“I do not trust these adverts especially when they only work to sling mud,” said Joseph Schifferdecker, 19-year-old political science major. “When they do that, all that tells me is that they are insecure about their own stances on the issues [and] that they would rather focus their attention on making their opponent look bad.”
Dennis Adley, 35-year-old political science major, said, “I think it’s bad for politics. It takes the message and the conversation away from the issues that really affect people.”
A likely problem for whichever candidate is chosen to face Barack Obama will be how to change their strategy after having invested heavily in negative ads.
“I think one of the big problems with politics right now is the negativity involved in it,” said Tom Peters, 27-year-old political science major. “It’s a very hostile environment and it seems like everybody is putting each other down.”
“Attacks ads are irrelevant,” said Alix Lawson, 21-year-old political science major. “It’s bad for politics because when ads were created they were supposed to promote an individual, an idea.”
Have these attack ads set a precedent for the primary season and possibly the general election? Paulson said he doesn’t believe so.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of precedent,” he said, “I think it has set a mood.”
Political ads affect voting