Negative ads; good or bad?


In recent elections the amount of negative ads have been staggering and it has become hard to find an ad that is completely positive. While some negative ads definitely have benefits, I believe the sheer number of them have gone too far. Negative ads started as a way to really inform the public about candidates and often times they were more informative than the positive ads. Positive ads often steer clear of any policy information or key issues but rather touch of the human emotions of the public and making the candidate seem relatable. Negative ads have more focus on political issues as they are trying to make an argument and therefore show some facts and relevant information about the election. When negative ads are done in this way, I believe they are positive and make a stronger democracy.

However, what has happened in recent elections is that negative ads have become so prevalent and nasty, that often times no relevant information is really even portrayed. For instance in the recent campaign Obama has an ad of Romney singing America the Beautiful.

Romney is by no means musically talented and this ad is both painful to listen to and endure. This ad then lists facts about how Romney outsourced jobs with his business and as governor. While some of the points made may provide a bit of information, the focus is on Romney’s awful sounding rendition. I personally find the ad extremely annoying as it is continually on the television. I watched the ad several times before I actually viewed the text being shown on the screen. In this case the policy issues are not the main factor of the ad at all, but rather the musical ability of Romney. Is this what the campaign is really about? Campaign ads like this bother me in the sense that so much money is being spent on an ad that provides very little relevant information on the actual topic of the election. Did the viewer really learn anything informative?

Looking at the other side however, the campaign stuck with me and was very memorable, so did it achieve its point? In the end, these uninformative ads are only as meaningful and important as the viewer perceives them to be. If we have knowledgeable viewers, these ads are meaningless. But if we are susceptible to the pitchy and off-tuned rendition of America the Beautiful, then these campaigns may just make all the difference.

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3 responses to “Negative ads; good or bad?

  1. Your post was very interesting because I too feel that politics have been more focused on the negatives. You mention the idea of merit in negative ad campaigns and I agree there is little merit in attacking your competition to be put in a more positive light. Politics in general have turned to playing dirty then relying on your values and policies to gain support. This idea of negative ads is very consistent with our class discussions on ethics. As you mention, it is unethical to bash your opponent however, the unfortunate reality is bashing is more likely to resonate in American minds.

  2. I think you make a really good point and I agree with you on the fact that politcal ads have gone way too far. Right now when you turn on the tv, you are almost guaranteed to see a political ad and I can honestly say that I have not seen one positive ad during this election. What I have seen though, is both candidates bashing one another in some of the most ridiculous ways. As you said, some of the ads do have informative information for the public, but it is quite overshadowed by the attacks on the competitor instead.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts on positive versus negative ads. Personally, I find a lot of the media and the pundits’ worries about negative ads annoying. Firstly, there is a difference between an ad that is simply wrong. In the case of the above ad, its tone may be critical or negative, but it strings together a series of facts. I find most media talking heads take any ad that is critical and lump it into the “bad” category of negative.

    Secondly, politics is a “contact sport.” There was never some golden era of US politics when polite gentlemen (emphasis on MEN) debated only the issues. For example, Lincoln, whose debates with rival Stephen DOuglas are often held up as the high point of American political debate, ended one with a snide comment about Douglas’ argument.
    “In another instance Lincoln got a tremendous laugh from the audience when he said one of Senator Douglas’’ arguments was “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

    My translation into today’s vernacular: Romney says of Obama’s argument that without the stimulus, unemployment would be above 10%: “That is as weak as vegan tofu soup watered down with some Hollywood actor’s favorite designer water.”

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