Is negative campaigning losing its efficacy?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Oct 9, 2008.

  1. Voters' debate reaction shows resistance to negativity

    By Ashley Broughton

    (CNN) -- A moving graph at the bottom of the CNN screen during Tuesday night's presidential debate measured the reactions of uncommitted voters in the swing state of Ohio, and it seemed to bear out the theory that negative campaigning draws negative voter reactions.

    Nearly every time one candidate threw a jab at the other, the voter reaction dipped measurably.

    The dips were minor for small digs but slipped further if a candidate continued criticizing his opponent.

    For instance, reactions of both men and women voters slid into negative territory when Republican Sen. John McCain said that trying to nail down Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's tax policies is like "nailing Jell-O to the wall."VideoWatch the criticism and the reaction »

    Similarly, the reaction line took a dive when Obama discussed McCain's votes in the Senate against alternative fuels. VideoWatch the graph go down at this point »

    Such negative reactions are typically seen in voters who are undecided, said Merle Black, professor of politics and government at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

    "They don't like negative campaigning," he said. "It doesn't matter whether it's one side or the other."

    But while each candidate saw dips when criticizing his opponent, voters' reactions were more positive when each began talking about specific plans and ideas regarding the national economy, the war in Iraq, the environment and other issues.

    Voters are "worried about real issues," Black said. "They want the candidate to address that. ... That's what the voters are interested in. They know it's a big mess out there, and they want to know what the alternatives are." PhotoSee scenes from the debate »

    With less than a month to go before the general election, McCain's campaign said before Tuesday's debate that he planned to "take off the gloves." In addition, both campaigns have launched negative advertising campaigns against the opponent in an effort to win over undecided voters.

    The stakes for McCain are high, as most polls show him trailing Obama.

    "When you are down to crunch time and it's win or lose, you throw niceties out the window," Bruce Vanden Bergh, a professor of advertising at Michigan State University, told CNN before the debate.

    And on CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday, Ben Jones, a former Democratic representative from Georgia, said, "At this point, it appears because the McCain campaign is behind, they think that's the only shot they got left is to bring (negativity) -- but when they do those negative campaigns and negative attacks, it also brings them down.

    "So it really doesn't do any good, and people are sick and tired of it."

    Both McCain and Obama took numerous opportunities in Tuesday's debate to point out the other's voting record. Obama noted that McCain voted against a program to provide government health insurance for children. VideoWatch Obama slam McCain on health insurance »

    For his part, McCain pointed to Obama's vote on a pork-laden energy bill. VideoWatch the dig and the reaction »

    Both instances caused voters' reaction to head toward negative territory.

    The only voters who like to hear the jabs, Black said, are "the strong partisans. They like to see the other candidate, the other side, criticized." But those voters, he noted, have already made up their minds, and in criticizing their opponent, candidates are "not persuading anybody that's persuadable."

    Meanwhile, pointing out opponents' shortcomings is a risky strategy, analysts have said, and one that could easily backfire on a campaign.

    "Whenever the campaign takes a negative turn, independent voters notice, and they'll punish the candidate that takes it too far," John Avlon, author of "Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics," told CNN prior to the debate.

    However, voters on some level have come to anticipate a certain level of criticism and jabs in a debate, which may be one reason that campaigns persist with negativity even though voters are known to dislike it, experts said.

    "Both of them are probably irritated at each other and want to get the digs in," Black said. "It just kind of goes with the territory."
  2. Could possibly be that people are pressing the negative button not because they are judging the candidate and thinking inside their head oh gosh i hate when candidates talk about negative stuff because im an eternal optimist and i only want to hear nice fluffy things and avoid the truth if it's there but rather they get negative feelings when negative issues are brought up no matter who the candidate.
  3. The problem as I see it, is that this negative campaigning essentially reduces the contest to "who do I hate the most, so I have to vote for who I hate the least."

    Terrible way to choose a leader. It really lowers the bar for expectations. It is so common around here to hear "Yes, I hate McCain but I hate Obama worse."

    Or vice versa.

    We are selecting the leader of the free world to be president on criteria of the least amount of flaws, rather than the greatest amount of skill sets and talent?

    No wonder we keep going in the crapper...there is no way we get the best and brightest people to even run for president if the decision comes down to the least offensive choice. Who in their right mind wants to hear nothing about their flaws constantly and nothing about their virtues?

  4. IMO:

    1. The information highway allows voters immediate fact checking to the legitimacy of attacks. Most of the time the negative charge is mere distortion of a stated policy position.

    2. McCain should have mentioned the names Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi a dozen times during the debate. Attacking the fawnlike Obama is a losing strat. Going after the Dem Congress and linking their partisan ineffectiveness to a non-veto Dem President would have scored points. Instead McCain mentioned several times how he works both sides f the aisle. Mistake. America FEARS Congress. McCain should be campaigning against the Dem majority on the Hill.
  5. People are becoming more perceptive and see "the whole system" or "big picture" more easily - because we have more freedom of information. This freedom of thought is the strongest influencer and liberator in terms of democratic thought and processes.

    That means that one single statement can not be imprinted on their minds like a stake through the heart of a political opponent.
    People are learning and adapting towards this freedom of thought - this is for a systemic understanding of adapting electorates.
  6. Exactly! Mac wants to get everyone on his side he should be asking the people if they want a Dem congress, Dem senate and Dem president. He makes no mention of Obama's affiliation with Acorn which plays an instrumental role in all this subprime shit. He should be throwing Frank and Dodd under the bus as well. McCains debating skills are atrocious and will probably cost him the election.
  7. Are we related some how? Jeez, remember when Chicago used to the capital of common sense before it became Frisco East?
  8. I think a lot of attack ads are overdone, dark gray tones with ominous soundtrack and all that. Most negative campaigning consists of pointing out the opponent's record. How is that a bad thing?

    The problem with McCain is that he is not very good at it. He bitterly resents personal criticism himself, and feels he should be above it, hence his support for McCain-Feingold, which severely eroded core First Amendment rights.

    Voter polls consistently say that the thing voters hate the most is negative campaigning, yet any campaign pro will tell you they are used heavily for one reason: they work.

    The republicans failed to use the summer to construct an alternative persona for Obama, and they are paying the price now. I believe they were lulled into complacency by the relatively good polling data. Now it's too late. Voters have decided they are comfortable with obama. He can brush away truthful attacks now as "desperation moves" by McCain.

    If the bailout had not come up or if McCain had handled it differently, we would have had another very close election. If McCain had conveyed to voters that Obama was a far left radical with a lifetime of odious associations who was trying to deceive them, he would have a comfortable lead. As it is, Obama can put it on cruise control until the election.
  9. One more thing Mac needs to hammer Obama on. Pakistan has nukes!! Given Obama's already spoken position regarding intrusion into the country it needs to be told that the arsenal they have is anything but secure.
  10. Arnie


    At least we get a tax cut. Obama promised.:D
    #10     Oct 9, 2008