We have excess ad negativity

It’s really easy to observe politics from the living room couch. Just turn on the tube.

They’re everywhere, those lousy, irritating negative political ads.

There’s even a video on YouTube on how to make one.

I don’t know why I expect anything different. It seems negative campaigning is built into our country’s political fabric. It’s our history, ever since John Adams and Thomas Jefferson traded insults about physical attributes and family heritage, topics that had nothing to do with running a country.

I’ve become quite negative about negative campaign advertising. Negative campaigns are an insult to our intelligence. They are a waste of our time. They aren’t even entertaining. Nov. 7 can’t get here fast enough.

Critics on both sides contend opponents’ ads are short on truth. So who we gonna believe? Do the folks behind all these attack ads really think they are making some kind of mind-changing impression?

Maybe so. Liz Skewes, an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s school of journalism and mass communication, said in an interview with CU graduate student Lucia Palmer that although most people dislike the ads, 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,” Skewes said. “But we remember it.”
A study conducted by the University of Miami School of Communication shows that a negative political ad is most effective when shown in moderation. But if it is aired frequently, it has a backlash effect on how the sponsoring candidate is viewed.

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.

The hundreds of thousands of television commercials broadcast by the presidential candidates are lopsidedly negative; this is the case with 80 percent of those put out by President Barack Obama and 84 percent of those by Gov. Mitt Romney, according to CMAG, an advertising tracking unit at the analysis firm Kantar Media.

Even Obama and Romney have condemned some of the ads — but only the ones from the other side.

Obama and Romney suspended negative ads for a day in September, keeping their remarks apolitical out of respect for the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Out of respect to the rest of us, they should have tossed them into File 13.

Guys: If you’re going to spend billions of dollars on airtime, tell me what you are going to do to improve our situation as a nation, a state, a county, a city. Don’t tell me what’s wrong with the person you are running against. Don’t twist, stretch or ignore the truth. Give us voters some credit. We can handle the truth.

Doug Storum can be reached at 303-630-1959 or dstorum@bcbr.com.

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