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Are negative political ads effective?

Are negative political ads effective?
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 9:51 PM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (WTVG) - In election season it’s the part of the campaign that lots of people complain about: The onslaught of campaign ads.

A number of them are really going after fellow candidates but are those ads effective? It turns out their impact is increasing.

On TV or online it’s hard to miss the political ads these days. Whether you’re seeing more or less depends on what you remember.

“I can’t say that it’s particularly worse, I think we just have short memories,” said Melissa Miller, Ph.D. of Bowling Green State University.

Doctor Miller says the attack ads have always been a favorite for campaigns but political scientists have doubted them until recently.

“We’ve become so much more polarized than we were in the ‘80s and ‘90s when a lot of those kinds of study were being done. We have a different political context now,” said Dr. Miller.

Doctor Miller says new research shows the attack ad is effective and lasts with the viewer.

“The candidate who’s out there attacking an opponent, there’s a small positive effect in terms of their vote share. It’s a little but it’s significant,” said Dr. Miller.

Which could go a long way, especially in that very tight US Senate primary race in Ohio. A race in which most of the candidate share similar views. An attack on the actual person is the typical route.

“You can’t really go after your opponents in your own party based on the issues. So what do you go after? You go after their character. You go after any maybe flip flopping they’ve done in the past. You go after any hint of scandal they’ve had in the past,” said Dr. Miller.

In the last few elections you’re seeing ads from political action committees or PACs, not the candidate themselves.

While a candidate attack ad might be tame, the PAC ads typically are not and there are a lot of them, with lots of money that feel very passionately about their candidate or against another one.

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