Reversed Polarity: Why I’m Negative about the Positives of Negatives

Earlier today I was listening to a morning news program discuss negative political ads. The discussion centered on the apparent contradiction between their purported success and the fact that when asked, nearly everyone detests them.

I think this “paradox” stems from several factors:

1) The effectiveness of negative ads is overrated.
Perhaps not always, but often. Maybe those who tell us they are working have the most to gain from their use.

2) Though we DO dislike them, we are still influenced by them to varying degrees.
I have to admit this is true for me. There are reasons for me to disapprove of both candidates in this election. The negative ads from both campaigns give me additional reasons to do so. Though I hate the ads and their use, my thinking is still influenced by them.

3) Their influence contributes to our distaste for them.
Is this influence part of the reason we don’t like them? I think it is. At any rate, this dual response would explain the apparent disparity between negads being unpopular yet effective.

4) Negativity is in the eye of the beholder.
There is a thin line between a spirited defense and an offensive offense. It’s hard to point out why you should be elected without also pointing out why your opponent should not. Determining when this line is crossed can be difficult.

What do you think? Are they as effective as we are led to believe? And if so, why does something we all seem to dislike, continue to work?

I’m ready for them to be gone. Unfortunately, until they cease to be effective (or at least perceived so), they will continue to be present.

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6 thoughts on “Reversed Polarity: Why I’m Negative about the Positives of Negatives

  1. I can only speak for myself by saying that I am turned off by them. I think that they are targeted at ignorant voters and project messages of fear using innuendo and insinuation. Sadly both sides are using them.

  2. I am complete agreement. I think the line between the “spirited defense and the offensive offense” has definitely been crossed when you spend MORE time talking about why I shouldn’t vote for the other candidate than why I should vote for you. Negativity obviously works, that is how most of the untrue rumors have gotten started. What makes it worse is the media coverage of the ads and all of the fringe groups that are not affiliated with the campaigns. If you are truly taking the high road, it is usually not necessary to continuosly point that out to people, is it?

  3. It might be more accurate to say I am affected (rather than influenced) by them. They don’t influence my vote, but they do affect my attitude about the whole race.

  4. Cameron,
    It seems somewhat foolish to advertise for your opponent. Why not show their own qualities, abilities, and leadership; and never mention the others?
    I guess that wouldn’t be politics though.
    T.A.

  5. Can’t say a negative ad has ever influenced me, but if done well they can be effective. I agree with Dave there needs to be a balance between positive and negative. Also make sure your negative ad is factual – blatant dishonesty turns me off. I would love for McCain to take the high road and not do them at all, because since Obama has gotten mostly a pass by the media I can see why he is going negative.

    Obama didn’t have to use many negative ads – why when the media is smearing Palin, Joe the Plummer, etc for you?

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