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Sunday, December 10, 2023


Negative political campaign advertisements increase partisanship

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Negative political campaign advertisements need to become less used during elections, as they strengthen partisanship and have a mixed impact on voter turnout in exchange for increased antagonism between the population and parties. 

According to The Washington Post, antagonistic political campaign advertisements for both parties received a disturbing amount of financial support and have become the main strategy for bolstering voter turnout. 

The trend of utilizing smear campaigns against the other party as a call to action for voters, however, is instead heavily damaging the public’s involvement in the political process. 

In a democracy such as the U.S. that emphasizes healthy dialogue and involvement, utilizing negative political campaign advertisements can prove to be disastrous, as it instead prioritizes bitterness over issues that are more complex than what both parties’ advertisements make them out to be. 

During the 2022 midterm election, the Democratic Party used the Dobbs decision, which ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade, as a way to appeal to voters fighting for abortion rights. 

The controversial ruling made by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court turned out to be a safe way for Democrats to garner votes, with the party spending more than $100 million on advertisements focused on this issue alone. 

Alternatively, the Republican Party’s main spending for their advertisements was focused on taxation, President Joe Biden and inflation. More than $200 million went towards advertisements focusing on these three issues, highlighting the disparaging priority differences between the two parties. 

While it is not detrimental for a party to critique another party’s stance on political issues, the way an opposing party’s agenda and their candidate’s character is presented to viewers is creating a deep rift of partisanship between Americans. 

For example, political campaign advertisements can include flat-out disinformation. 

An NPR soundbite highlights multiple examples of disinformation used in advertisements by political candidates during the 2022 midterm election. 

Among the culprits that used disinformation during the 2022 midterm election was Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

Many Americans who are active in political discussion have found antagonistic campaign advertisements to be the most effective way in bolstering voter turnout. 

However, the effects of negative campaign advertisements on voter turnout have had mixed results. 

Recent research suggests that the detrimental impact of negative campaign advertisements is negligent at times, but the impact of positive campaign advertisements is noticeable only when there are no negative messages attached. 

As explained in the study by professor Brett Gordon, there is a phenomenon to be found in negative messages. 

They generally carry more weight and they tend to stick out more than a collective group of positive statements. 

Politicians would rather trade in the noticeable difference of a positive campaign in a close election for a flurry of jabs at their opponent that make their supporters listen more and fence-sitters step aside come election day. 

Negative campaign advertisements in American politics are dissuading a majority of potential voters from participating in elections and instead bolster partisanship between the two major parties and their emboldened supporters. 

The inability for Democrats and Republicans to branch out and try to find a good base for more Americans to vote is what keeps perpetuating a cycle of partisanship that is already having dangerous impacts on the nation’s election process and splintering their respective parties from the inside. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Priorities USA as a source of disinformation. It has been updated. 

JJ Caceres is a political science sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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