By Jeff Wilson, APR (@wilson0507)
One of the many reasons why I appreciate living in Virginia is the fact that we’re a swing state. In the presidential election of 2008, I really felt as though every vote in the Old Dominion counted.
As a swing state, Virginia – along with Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – finds itself once again thrust to the forefront of the 2012 presidential campaign. Visits to these states by President Obama, Vice President Biden and challenger Mitt Romney and his newly anointed running mate Paul Ryan have become weekly occurrences.
However, one unfortunate side effect of having swing state status is the inordinate amount of political ads – mostly negative – that are permeating the airwaves. And no doubt, the onslaught of mudslinging will only be heightened the closer we get to Election Day.
The International Business Times reports that local television ad spending skyrocketed in the second quarter of 2012, fueled by the astronomical spending by the Democratic and Republican political campaigns and the super-secretive Super PACs.
Already, 2012 campaign spending on TV and radio advertising has reached more than $500 million; about the same amount spent on advertising during the entire 2008 general election. Almost half of that political money – an estimated $238 million and counting – has been spent by the Super PACs, which have names like Restore Our Future and Priorities USA Action.
And it’s only going to get worse.
A study by the research firm Borrell Associates projects that election spending in 2012 will reach an astronomical $9.8 billion vs. about $7 billion in 2008. These figures include some 13,000 statewide, congressional and municipal races, as well as the big prize – the presidential election.
With political ads airing 24/7, and often times running back-to-back-to-back, it begs the question – are you suffering from political ad fatigue?
I certainly am.
Most voters profess to hate negative political advertising. In fact, research funded by the Knights of Columbus, claims that almost 80 percent of Americans are frustrated by the increasingly negative tone of political ads. Two-thirds of Americans said they felt that candidates spent more time attacking their challengers than addressing the issues, while 64 percent said that negative ads harm the political process significantly or a great deal. And 56 percent of respondents went so far as to say that the tone of political ads is uncivil and disrespectful.
With such distain for negative political advertising, why do the campaigns continue to run them?
Because they work.
“Studies show that negativity doesn’t affect voter turnout. Nor does it sway those who are already convinced one way or the other. Instead, the power of negativity may lie in its ability to compel people to seek out more information about candidates, in turn influencing the undecided,” writes Emily Sohn for Discovery News.
“Advertising matters at the margins,” said political scientist Erika Franklin Fowler, director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising at Wesleyan University in Conn. “We never see ads that take a candidate from 20 percent to 70 percent of the vote. But when you have a country that is divided 50/50, every percentage point counts. That’s where advertising makes a difference.”
Politics has always been a dirty business. And the mudslinging is just making it dirtier. But with so much as stake, we can expect the mud to keep slinging, as long as the purple states keep swinging.
Graphic Credit: Examiner.com.