Monday, January 9, 2012

On New Hampshire Primary Day, Do Negative Campaign Ads Persuade You?

Although I can appreciate the cleverness of a well executed, tough political ad as well as the next cynical voter, I really don’t like it when the atmosphere get toxic, when campaigns try to trick voters by obfuscating the facts and intentionally mislead people, or just outright name call. I hate that. It’s beneath them and the office which they seek to hold, especially if they’re vying for the post of commander-in-chief.

However political pundits, along with a large body of research, tell us that it’s those negative ads that help win elections. The charges in those ads remain with you, like an insidious ear worm. The positive ads, the ones that are all motherhood and apple pie with a crisp flag snapping in the wind in the background while the candidate looks regal in front of it, conventional wisdom says that they make little difference when we are deciding for whom to vote.

Even though folks will say that they don't like negative ads, a University of Georgia advertising professor wrote on CNN's web site that they're used for one big reason: "The answer is simple: They work. And they work very well." She added that, "There is some evidence that negative messages may be more likely than positive ones to passively register [with viewers.]"

So, on the day before the New Hampshire primary, I surfed the internet and culled two different kinds of ads from the remaining GOP presidential candidates' web sites to compare and contrast the positive ads with the negative ones.

The Good

In this pro-Mitt Romney ad, with inspirational music and images, Ann Romney takes to forefront to try to soften the straight-laced businessman. (Romney did himself no favors today in the softening department by using the phrase "I like being able to fire people," which will, I predict, appear in a political ad very soon.)

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s campaign neatly packaged up Huntsman’s rebuttal during the final debate this weekend to Romney’s assertion that by serving as the U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, Huntsman wasn’t putting his party first.

Here, Huntsman says that his election would be the answer to the nation’s “trust deficit.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich explains his belief that government doesn’t create real jobs.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul takes a rather loud approach with this “Big Dog” ad which seems more like it’s promoting a pro wrestling match rather than a presidential candidate.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s family-centric “Pop-Up” ad describes him in a very general way without attacking anyone else.

This “Morning in America” type of ad from Texas Governor Rick Perry shows a much better side of him than he has exhibited in the debates.

The Bad & The Ugly

Romney takes on President Obama and takes his quote “if we keep talking about the economy we’re going to lose” wildly out of context.

Romney turns Gingrich into a sinister silly little man.

Romney demonizes Gingrich for actually working with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while making former Vice President Al Gore look like a crazed character.

Gingrich returns the favor and calls Romney “timid.”

Paul stands up to the Washington machine filled with slick talkin’ pols.

Paul targets Gingrich saying that he sells “access.”

Huntsman goes after Paul’s controversial newsletters.

Huntsman attacks Romney as a flip-flopper while showing excerpts of Romney attacking someone else for flip-flopping.

Gingrich wants no part of Romney’s “pious baloney” sandwich.

Perry calls Santorum an unelectable pig, when it comes to scarfing up taxpayer earmarks for his constituents that is, and even likened Santorum to Obama.

All of this makes me almost long for that weird Herman Cain-smoking ad.

Given all of the above, what say you: Do ads – negative or positive – influence you? Or do you completely ignore all of this as background noise?

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