The number of negative ads ran prior to Florida’s GOP primary were enough to make ballot-casters dizzy with political fumes sputtering out of every circuit possible. Ad after ad, lines being crossed time and again, and an onslaught of offensive claims solidified Florida’s primary as one of the most negative campaigns to date. With negative ads doing little to inform the American public of a given candidate’s “actual” stance, it’s a shame they work.
Due to a swift kick in the butt from Newt Gingrich in South Carolina’s primary, Mitt Romney went on the offensive to usher in a war zone in which 99% of his ads were negative, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group. According to CMAG, Gingrich’s ads were 95% negative, solidifying second place for both negative ads run and standing in the Florida primary.
So why were negative ads so effective in Florida? For one, it’s the easy way out for the voter. It’s simply more convenient for the voter to take what information they’re given and base their decision solely on that, rather than dig deeper through the biased bull dinky. The thought process, “Well, I’ll vote for the other guy because he has fewer ‘negative’ qualities,” is a dangerous one; especially given the truth-twisting, out of context nature of negative ads. It does a lot of good to do a little research.
Negative ads also work for the same reason they do in car commercials. An effective negative ad can scare you in to buying a “safer” car or voting for a “true conservative” candidate, because skimping on a different car will leave you dead and voting for the other candidate will trap you in a socialist society. This is scary stuff people.
The negative ads will persist if they continue to work as they did in Florida. The voters ultimately decide how a campaign will be run and whether the mud-slinging will blind them in the ballot box or give them enough time to wipe their eyes clean and see the truth. In the 1952 presidential election, Gov. Adlai Stevenson was approached by a supporter following a speech who said “Sir, every thinking American is going to vote for you,” only to hear his reply “Thank you Madam, but I need a majority.” Let’s just hope every American has a “thinking American” friend or at least knows someone who subscribes to The Inertia.
Even if voters are going to base their decisions on a process-of-elimination, hot-button issue compatibility test, it should be done the correct way; not through negative ad, hearsay. Visit http://votesmart.org/voteeasy/ to get an unbiased match-making experience between voter and candidate.