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Negative Campaign Ads: Why?

During almost every political campaign, commercials are a big part of campaigning. And it seems like voters have to sit through the negative, name-calling ads more often than the positive. KSMU’s Adam Hammons has more.

I went to Park Central Square in downtown Springfield to ask several random pedestrians what they think about this year’s negative campaign ads.

“I don’t watch them, listen to them, because that’s what I have tivo for, and I just zip right over them.”

“I think they’re dumb because they’re just putting down the other people and it makes me want to vote for the people that they’re putting down because they’re getting put down.”

“They tell partial truths rather than the whole truth, and they don’t tell what really is happening. They tell what people want to know, only that. And I don’t buy them, I don’t buy them at all.”

Many people are becoming frustrated with these commercials, but they’re still airing. George Connor, the department head of political science at Missouri State University, explains why candidates are using negative ads.

“I think the goal of the negative ad is to fire up the base, the people you’ve already identified as your voter, and in a close election in particular you need to get that base fired up so they come out and vote.”

Connor says the recent campaigns have about the same amount of negative ads, but they are becoming more personal. He referenced the Missouri Senate race between Robin Carnahan and Roy Blunt.

Connor says he personally doesn’t like negative ads and would like to see only positive commercials. However, that’s not likely.

“If you know your opponent’s going to go negative, it’s a Cold War analogy. It’s first strike and second strike capability. If you know they’re going to go negative, you go negative first. And it creates this ‘mutually assured destruction’ is what we called it during the Cold War.”

Connor also says that the truthfulness of the ads is hard to determine. He says the goal of the commercials is association and not facts.

“The appearance of impropriety is the same as impropriety.”

The election is November 2.

For KSMU News, I’m Adam Hammons.