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Negative Campaign Advertising No Worse Than Normal

This story was written by Derek Medlin, Technician


With Election Day here and months of campaigning finished, the constant barrage of negative television ads will subside, at least until the next round of voting two years from now.

Craig Smith, a North Carolina State University communication professor, said the negative campaign ads in this election season are no different from what usually occurs during any hotly contested campaign.

"For the most part there is a certain diet that has to be fed to people who traditionally support a group," Smith said of the push for negative campaigning. "You begin to get into a cycle."

In this election season, ads run by the John McCain presidential campaign and Elizabeth Dole's senate campaign have come under heavy scrutiny for going to far in attacking Sen. Barack Oabama and Kay Hagan.

Smith said these ads have been somewhat over the top but not out of the ordinary.

"There is an upside to attacking policies, and there can also be an upside to attacking character when character is demonstrated to be relevant," he said. "You tend to get different kinds of voters. Some voters pay attention to it and others don't."

Smith said the main concern he has about this election season is how little Republican campaigns focused on their own policy and how much they focused on attacking opponents.

"I dont think there are more negative campaign ads than before, and I dont think it's getting any more attention, but I can't remember a campaign that has had so little else to say other than negative ads," Smith said of the McCain campaign. "North Carolinians have voted for George Bush twice by substantial margins, and right now North Carolina is leaning for Obama. That seems to be suggesting [negative campaigning] is not working."

Samantha Warden, a junior in communication, said she thinks the ads haven't been more common this year but that more people have been paying attention to them.

"There have always been negative ads around, but more people are paying attention to the election so they are noticed more," she said. "People will vote if there are negative ads are not."

Zach Sipes, a sophomore in nutrition science, agreed and said the ads have been extremely negative but not anything he wouldn't expect during a campaign.

"They have been over the top," Sipes said of the ads. "But that is pretty much status quo for most elections. I'm kind of surprised by the things said in the ads, but it is fairly normal."

As far as affecting voter turnout, Smith said negative campaign ads have less effect than they did in previous elections.

"There is so much information through so many different sources that people are not as dependent as they once were on just the commercials," he said. "When McCain and Palin talk about Obama being a socialist and things like that, it is more difficult for things like that to hold up when people are getting information from all kinds of sources."

Warden agreed and said she believes voter turnout will be unaffected by negative campaign ads.

For Sipes, negative campaigning ads won't effect turnout because people get information from different sources than television.

"Negative ads won't effect turnout because most people that are going to go out and vote get their information from either watching debates or reading up on the candidates online," he said. "People seem to go off of info they find out for themselves and not what they see on TV."