Negative Political Campaign Ads: Effective or Not?


Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

Campaign ads serve a variety of purposes, whether their objective is to offer insight into a candidate’s platforms, or an attempt to offer criticism to those who are challenging their views. These negative ads have been proven to serve their purpose of engaging voters to participate and show concern over those issues. Although, the backlash against these critical ads can cause voters to eject themselves entirely from the political process, said Jonathon Wharton.

Wharton added a lot of these negative ads are funded by political action committees (PACs) and for smaller, state-level politicians, who do not have as much funding for elections, these ads help give them some significant publicity.

“[Ads] oftentimes expose a candidate that might have not been a known quantity, maybe the name wasn’t recognizable, maybe the issues weren’t known,” said Wharton. “Especially at the state and local level, because, too often, a lot of these ads that are taking place right now: they’re more for congress, they’re more for the president. When it comes to the local news, these ads could be helpful with getting the name out there, good or for bad.”

Wharton said negative ads have been going on for years, but the difference is the increase in PACs. He said camps will often deny being tied to these specific ads and, while they may not be financially, politically, it is entirely possible.

Ben Bell, senior finance major, said undecided voters’ final conclusions should not be based off of critical campaign advertisements, since many of these them are funded by anonymous PACs and are, therefore, biased.

“Any kind of issue that is important to you, you should go one step further than listening to a super PAC hit piece,” said Bell. “It’s paid to be one-sided, so I don’t care what the issue is, you need to check out both sides before coming out with one thing rather than the other.”

Bell said he believes campaign ads that are critical of other candidates succeed on a “macro-level,” that super PACs would not spend millions of dollars on them if they did not. So if mass negative ads are being run on the radio and television featuring a particular candidate, then it will have an effect on the general population.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2012, of the 54 percent of voters who heard about the 2010 “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling, which allows citizens and corporations to contribute as much funds towards political advertising as they want as long those funds are not specifically tied to that candidate’s campaign, 65 percent feel “independent expenditures” had a negative impact on the 2012 election.

Arianis Marte, sophomore social work major, said when she sees ads that negatively criticize another candidate, it makes her not want to vote.

“I don’t want to vote. I don’t want to vote because they trash talk each other,” said Marte. “So they try to make themselves feel better by putting someone else down, but the next person will do the same. So there’s always something negative about someone.”

Marte said she would rather see more ads geared towards a candidate’s agenda, how they plan on changing the United States, and less discussion regarding what another candidate has done in the past.

Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter

PHOTO: Professor Wharton

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