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Research Shows Negative Advertisements Bring More Voters To The Polls On Election Day

This story was written by Lindsey Meaux, The Daily Reveille

With eyes glued to televisions in homes across the country, voters are watching presidential, senatorial and congressional hopefuls make their final bids for office with just one week until the Nov. 4 general elections.

But often candidates final pleas are one last handful of mud to slinga move Bob Mann, mass communication professor and former press secretary for former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and former Sen. John Breaux, said increases interest in campaigns and voter turnout by raising hot-button issues, as shown in new research exploring the effects of negative campaigning.

Although Mann said negative advertisements create a more robust debate over the issues, four university professors have joined more than 100 others from across the U.S. in signing a petition requesting both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obamas campaigns halt blatant misrepresentations of their opponents positions.

Results of a recent AARP analysis released Monday indicate undecided and leaning voters tend to show greater support for candidates who focus on issues rather than mudslinging.

Candidates who focus on issues and do not stir up partisan anger are rewarded with greater support from the swing voters they need to attract to win the election, according to the news release.

Chavanne Fontenot, LSU engineering freshman, described herself as undecided with regard to the upcoming presidential election.

Whenever [advertisements] are attacking things I have moral issues with, it definitely grabs my attention, she said.

In the final days leading up to the election, Fontenot said she would like to hear about candidates stances on issues. Constant less informed public, she said.

It makes me think less of [the candidate running the advertisement], Fontenot said. It just seems really childish to just point fingers at one another.

An Oct. 15 Ipsos/McClatchy poll indicates 53 percent of registered voters view McCain as a more negative campaigner than Obama. Thirty percent of registered voters reported Obama as being the more negative campaigner.

The poll indicated 57 percent of voters rated negative campaigning as either not very or not at all effective.

These undecided voters, a lot of them arent people who pay very much attention to politics, said Richard Nelson, mass communication professor. How do you get them to come out to vote? It turns out, negative campaigning is very effective in doing that.

According to a Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications news release, McCain and Obama spent more than $28 million on television advertising during the week of Sept. 28.

During the week, nearly all of McCains advertisements were negative while, 34 percent of Obamas advertisements were negative, according to the news release.

Representatives from Rabinowitz/Dorf said new figures will be available within the coming week.

Lance Porter, mass communication professor, said its very important to respond to opponents negative advertising, preferably within 24 hours. People quickly forget the source of information but often remember the negative information itself, he said. Porter added that the credibility of the source is irrelevant after the information has reached viewers.

Mann said he has witnessed the dangers of not responding to negative advertisements.

When I was working in the Blanco campaign running against [Gov. Bobby Jindal], we ran some attacks in the latter part of the election, Mann said of the 2003 gubernatorial race. The problem is Jindal not only didnt refute them, he didnt even respond to them in any way.

Jindal lost the 2003 election.

Mann said negative advertisements in local campaigns are often tougher and nastier than national campaigns because candidates more often use mail-outs attacking their opponents.

Often times it flies below the radar, he said. [Candidates] dont want to respond [on television] because then you really are broadcasting the charge to a lot of people who wouldnt have heard it otherwise.


More than 100 professors from universities across the country signed a statement last week expressing disapproval of the unethical communication behavior used by both parties in the presidential campaign.

Signed by four LSU professors, Statement Concerning Recent Discourse of the McCain/Palin Campaign drew attention specifically to the GOP campaign.

The statement was signed by university communication studies professors Ruth Bowman, Michael Bowman, Renee Edwards and Patricia Suchy.

I feel it is irresponsible of the Republican Party to encourage people to believe Obama is associated with terrorism, Edwards said. I think it will be really hard for them to trust the government when they believe the president is a terrorist or associated with terrorists.