Poll: Campaign Ads Panned

John Kerry George Bush politcal ads advertising telebvision TV CBS/AP

In the battle for the White House, the air war has begun in earnest. Both John Kerry and George W. Bush launched opening barrages of television advertising this spring, hoping to define themselves and the issues at stake in the election. And already, most U.S. voters have seen those ads and almost all the voters in the hotly contested "battleground" states have seen them. Yet many also say the ads were negative and did not offer any new information. Many voters also view the ads they see through a very partisan lens.

70% of voters have seen a Kerry ad and two-thirds have seen a Bush ad. In the "battleground" states, where candidates have focused much of their media buys, almost nine in ten voters say they have seen an ad for Kerry and Bush.

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY ADS FOR…?
(Among Registered Voters)

All
Kerry
Yes
70%
No
28%

Bush
Yes
66%
No
33%


Battleground States
Kerry
Yes
87%
No
13%

Bush
Yes
87%
No
13%


Republicans, Democrats and Independents are all about equally likely to say they have seen an ad for both Bush and Kerry.

43% say the Kerry ads they've seen mostly explained the Democrat's positions, while 38% said the Kerry ads they saw had mainly attacked Bush. But advertising content may be in the eye of the beholder: Republicans recalled Kerry ads that attacked Bush; Democrats said the ads explained what Kerry stood for. Independents were mixed.

KERRY'S ADS MOSTLY…
(Among those who have seen ads)

All
Explained what Kerry stands for
43%
Attacked George W. Bush
38%

Republicans
Explained what Kerry stands for
22%
Attacked George W. Bush
57%

Democrats
Explained what Kerry stands for
63%
Attacked George W. Bush
22%

Independents
Explained what Kerry stands for
41%
Attacked George W. Bush
39

Many of Kerry's early ads have focused on his biography because he still needs to introduce himself to voters: over one-third in this poll still do not have an opinion of him, or know who he is.

Voters were more likely to describe George W. Bush's ads as having attacked John Kerry, though the President has run commercials both highlighting his own accomplishments and pointing out differences between himself and Kerry. Again, though, Republican and Democratic voters have their red and blue filters over the television screen: Democrats were much more likely to say the Bush ads attacked Kerry. But most Independents agreed with the Democrats, recalling Bush's ads as mostly negative.

BUSH'S ADS MOSTLY…
(Among those who have seen ads)

All
Explained what Bush stands for
35%
Attacked John Kerry
48%

Republicans
Explained what Bush stands for
53%
Attacked John Kerry
26%

Democrats
Explained what Bush stands for
24%
Attacked John Kerry
62%

Independents
Explained what Bush stands for
31%
Attacked John Kerry
54

The Influence of Ads

Yet there are two things voters of all types tend to agree upon: they say they have not gotten new information from any television advertisements this election season, and they say ads do not help them decide how to vote.

Three-quarters of voters say no ads during this campaign have supplied them with any new information about the candidates.

HAVE ANY TV ADS GIVEN YOU NEW INFORMATION?
(Registered voters)

Yes
16%
No
77%

And almost eight in ten say that there have been no ads that have as yet helped them decide on a vote choice.

HAVE ANY TV ADS HELPED YOU DECIDE YOUR VOTE THIS YEAR?
(Registered voters)

Yes
14%
No
79%

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,113 adults interviewed by telephone May 20-23, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The error for subgroups may be higher.
  • Joel Roberts

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