Vote 2018 Spot Check: Negative Ads

Published: Oct. 2, 2018 at 3:32 PM EDT
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Vote 2018 is five weeks away so 13abc is taking time to review those political ads we see and try to give them some perspective.

We are calling it our Vote 2018 Spot Check with 13abc political reporter Bill Hormann.

Our first edition looks at two ads in the Ohio governor's race.

One was produced by Republican Mike DeWine's campaign attacking Democrat Richard Cordray.

And one was produced by the Ohio Republican Party using Cordray's words against him.

In the first ad called "Failing Us Again," the campaign targets Cordray and his position on drug sentences.

"Cordray's plan would allow drug dealers to remain on our streets. Even when they are caught with enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people."

That is the first explosive charge.

"Cordray's plan would create a safe haven for drug dealers."

Taken together, both charges are intense and severe taking aim at Cordray's endorsement of Issue One.

That's the ballot measure which would, in part, reclassify drug use and drug possession as misdemeanors and offer drug dealers a reduced sentence if they take part in drug education programming.

This is not Cordray's plan as the ad charges but is a measure on the ballot voters must decide.

Then there's this ad:

"Now, we have a tone being set by the White House which is against everything I've understood for America. It's like Nazi Germany."

It is produced by the Ohio Republican Party and strategically uses world war two veterans to torpedo Cordray's comment.

Two veterans respond by saying:

"You don't go out and compare the White House to Nazi Germany."

"That's absolutely 100% wrong."

Viewers may disagree with the point of this ad and support Cordray's comments.

However, it uses the candidate's words against him and relies on reaction from World War Two- era soldiers in response.

The big question is, Do negative ads work?

David Jackson, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University says, simply, "Yeah, they work."

Jackson argues negative ads can be convincing and mobilize support.

He says, "People are likely to remember them. People are more likely to learn something frmo them. They tend to be more likely to have citation of sources."

Campaigns prefer to call these *contrast* ads. In the first ad we reviewed, there is a noticeable visual contrast between Cordray being cloaked by black and white pictures of guns and drug dealers and Mike DeWine bathed in full color video and surrounded by police with an image of a judge's gavel and jail cell and talking to mothers.

That subliminally evokes an emotional response.

Candidates of all stripes in most races produce negative ads and professor Jackson believes that hurts our politics, saying, "The more people see of negative ads the less positive attitudes they have about politics, government and the political process."

As for that second ad, Jackson says candidates prefer third party groups produce negative ads. He says, that gives the candidate a legitimately claim they had nothing to do with the ad if it fails but reap the benefits if the ad is popular.

Negative ads are not new. But we hope we put them in perspective in tonight's Spot Check.