Both political parties and their candidates have the voting public in complete control. Their political ads contain attacks on their opponents and seldom give information about what the candidate intends to do if he or she is elected. They use emotional ‘hot buttons’ to obtain votes. And, because intelligent voters are tired of ugly campaigns, these negative political ads will lower voter turnout.
Many years ago I made two promises to myself. First, I would always remain an independent voter. Secondly, I would not vote for any candidate whose television ads were not positive and informative. I have not been able to vote for a Democrat or Republican for years.
Close scrutiny of most of these ‘mud-slinging’ ads reveals that they are half-truths or blatant lies; they are purely character assassination.
There was one ad here in Nevada which began with a fair statement; his opponent was less qualified, and that is not an attack. Then it took a downward turn and described him as an ‘embarrassment.’ So much for that race; the other candidate had already aired negative ads.
Experts point out that although negative campaigning succeeds, they can go too far. If they become too extreme, there is frequently a backlash and voters cast their ballots for the candidate who received the attacks.
The reality of why attack ads work is very simple. The primary problem is that the American public believes what they see and hear on television. Let’s be honest about it, if they believe ‘reality shows’ are real, they’ll believe anything. This moves me directly to the second problem; voters do not research the candidate’s record or their stand on the issues. Lastly, they often vote against the opposition, not ‘for’ a particular individual, and simply do not care if the person receiving their vote is qualified.
Psychologists also say that human beings remember negative ads more than those which are positive. They use the example that most people remember their last insult but do not remember their last compliment.
Is there a solution? The obvious is the elimination of television advertising for political purposes. Of course that will never happen; the hundreds of millions of dollars in income for the networks increases the value of their stock. Everyone could do as I do; simply don’t watch them. Few will choose to do that and actually read about the two or three candidates in each contest and decide if they are worthy of their vote or not.
It’s getting more difficult for me to vote at all. I am a perfect example of why negative political ads lower voter turnout. I find that when I’m in the voting booth I often vote only for the ballot measures which interest me; and for few or none of the candidates.
It seems that Americans are less informed than those of other nations. Votes are often based on whether an individual lives in a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ state, and less on the credibility and ability of the candidates. If a candidate includes a volatile subject which encourages an emotional response from the targeted voters, whether or not he or she is sincere, that candidate will most likely receive their votes.
Midterm elections usually produce a lower voter turnout. It will be interesting to see the percentages when they are released next month.