JMC professor explores impact of negative political ads
JMC Associate Professor Liz Skewes grappled with a big question recently: “Can Your Vote Be Bought?”
Speaking to CU-Boulder’s Denver alumni group, Skewes talked about her research on political advertising and its impact on voters.
Skewes said that as negative advertising skyrockets in swing states during this campaign season, it’s not just the presidential candidates who stand to win or lose. The political attitudes and voting choices of audiences in Colorado could be greatly impacted as well.
Skewes traced the importance of advertising to presidential campaigns back to the Eisenhower campaign. Since then, political advertising on television has become increasingly negative and prolific.
So far this year, the Obama and Romney campaigns have spent more than $3 billion on advertising, up from $2.5 billion in 2008. In the 1990s, Skewes said, spending peaked in the millions.
Political ads are the most prevalent in swing states like Colorado. Ads have appeared on television 2.7 million times so far, said Skewes. And Denver ranks third in the nation for political advertising.
In swing states, the campaigns are targeting the small sliver of the population that hasn’t yet decided on a candidate. Unlike most places, Skewes said, in swing states this fraction of undecided voters is crucial in determining whether the state goes red or blue.
This results in a barrage of political advertising for television viewers, and as the election nears the advertising will turn increasingly negative.
Although most people dislike the ads, said Skewes, negative advertising is effective. For people just tuning in to the election and as yet uninformed, these ads affect their perception of the candidates.
“Everyone says we hate it,” said Skewes, “but we remember it.”
But negative political advertising doesn’t just affect voting decisions. Skewes said an abundance of negative ads can suppress voter turnout and reduce confidence in political effectiveness and trust in the government.
Story and photo by JMC graduate student Lucia Palmer