The benefit of negative ads
Author of ‘In Defense of Negativity’ explains
- Duration 4:53
- Date Jan 20, 2012
Author of ‘In Defense of Negativity’ explains
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In defense of negativity.
Attack advertising and presidential campaigns he is John Deere and he is also a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University thank you for joining us.
-- thank you for.
Yeah people say they don't want to see the negative ads but -- you make the argument in your book that they are very necessary part of that process.
-- I think they -- so we are candidates love to tell you why the why you should vote for them but they don't tell you the problems -- -- this is why they might not be a good president.
Or a senator -- whatever and the negative ads provide them the downside the problems and weaknesses so it's actually critical for an informed decision.
And you say that the positive ads put out by the candidates themselves.
Tend to be very.
-- Just talking about how are very patriotic -- a yo pro jobs this and that without any kind of facts to back it up where as the negative ads you say.
Are much more specific and fact.
That's exactly right you know positive that'll tell -- tell you that the candidates for educated children and and a lot of jobs which every candidate this for.
The negative ads are much more specific damning fact that the presidential level 80% of the negative ads have some sort of documentation some sort of evidence in the and it's only about 20% on the positive side.
But about that with these negative ads that.
It in some cases the candidate who is being attacked says that the ads are completely false or at best misleading.
Well that's often the case -- mean in the sense that somebody's trying to push the envelope as far as they can and they may be exaggerating but don't forget the positive stuff is an exaggeration to.
Newt Gingrich will claim that he helped create 2.2 million new jobs.
And the debate last night over the course of his time as as a member of congress and of course that's an exaggeration to.
Some of the negative ads though rather than being fact based are more about presenting an image that might just turn -- viewers stomach or just not be what they want to put out -- such as you to a point out Senator John Kerry.
On -- wind surfer.
Yeah exactly I mean some of the more personal attacks and then John Kerry's case the wind surf forever reinforce the image of him being kind of -- -- -- this.
Somebody who's very very wealthy.
And I've played badly but it played badly because it was already this preexisting view about him those concerns so.
It wasn't playing to something new it was in fact playing to a longstanding concern that have made it come to life.
And I'm there was nothing false about and we use just an image.
The very effective not image that just.
And gives you some kind of idea about the candidate -- -- kind of sticks with you.
In your book you talk about does the four most controversial ads from the 1988.
Campaign -- George H.
Bush and Michael to caucus.
What -- those.
Well one of them was the tank -- which is an -- where the a Republican George Bush was attacking Michael Dukakis for being weak on defense using some of -- -- -- footage.
Of driving around and -- -- tankan may Dukakis look ridiculously weak on defense.
I thought it was a fair -- and very.
Effective there was some other ones like a Boston Harbor which attack Michael -- caucus on the environment.
Which was supposedly his strong suit but the problem with that that wasn't the data itself is it to caucus didn't respond to it to caucus -- -- just to sit there.
And that made it seem much more real and so part of the -- negativity in the advantages of it.
Is -- you want not just to hear about the -- but -- the opposition's response to it and see if -- -- willing to stand up to a harsh attack.
Well I think is one of the questions that campaign strategists often wrestle with is when to response to a negative attack or when it's best to just ignore it.
And not give it any more attention or publicity than -- had before.
Yeah and that's always a tough call I mean in the end I think partly.
It depends on whether you wanna try to change the debate with -- you can try to change the debate in some cases -- got to deal with it and you've just got to take your medicine and and deal with the criticism but that's part of what politics is about.
You know politics is is of you know really strong battle -- a tough battle for control of the White House in this particular case and you've got to be ready for attacks and you've got to.
Be ready to respond -- all this is an important information and just how people react to because of your present United States are gonna wake up every morning to a fresh new set of attack.
Now that's for sure.
So you also point out that media coverage of these commercials has become a factor unto itself.
Yeah in fact that's one of the real changes in the last twenty years is the prior -- 1988.
The political ads didn't get very much attention by the news media but now they've become a major source of stories and coverage.
It used to be speeches now to advertisements and the problem is it isn't just that there's a -- -- discussion of these ads.
Is a news media tend to focus on the negative ads.
So the public perceives the campaigns to be much more negative than they actually are partly because the news coverage.