OPINION: Negative political ads may drive away voters, including me, from the 2020 Election


Elle Love 

It’s okay to take a break from the flood of political advertisements every once in a while. Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

As the 2020 Election draws closer, we must brace ourselves for the influx of political advertisements flooding news outlets and other mass media. It will be everywhere and if you are like me, you will hate it.

The spending for political ads will reach $10 billion in 2020, a 45% increase from 2018, according to Group M’s global president of business intelligence, Brian Wieser. So far, New York City mayor and Democratic nominee, Michael Bloomberg has already spent $31 million on his campaign.

In fact, Bloomberg and Trump both spent $10 million on 60 seconds of political advertising during the Super Bowl game on Feb. 2. Even something as fun and exciting as the Super Bowl can’t escape the wave of political advertisements.

It becomes harder and harder to enjoy things without running into the political ads trying to convince an indecisive voter like me to vote for them. I’m not saying all political ads are bad, but I’m worried about the increase of negative ads resulting from the current polarization of politics.

Knowing that President Trump’s campaign thrives on attacking his opponents, which helped him get elected in 2016, there’s no slowing down the amount of ad-hominem style political ads that will saturate the airwaves.

His opponents are no better. They seem to focus more on convincing voters that they are better than Trump, rather than educating voters on how they will help the country. The political mudslinging back and forth can cause anyone to become an indecisive voter, like me.

Political mudslinging is the process of deliberately spreading negative information about someone or something to worsen the public image of the candidate described. It involves direct accusations (if the information is proven true), insinuations (implying that the opponent has done something wrong without directly accusing) and the lowest form of mudslinging, ad-hominem attacks and negative imagery.

“People talk about the effectiveness of negative ads, which I think can be a double-edged sword,” said UNO Director of the School of Communication Hugh Reilly. “They can be very effective. There’s no doubt they could be very effective, but they can also backfire too, and people can get so tired of the constant deluge of ads that they tune out,” Reilly said.

UNO Professor Adam Tyma, Ph.D., said that negative political ads can drive away voters because it can offend them.

“It insults people,” said Tyma. “When the ad becomes populated with ad-hominem attacks and committing other logical fallacies, you’re insulting the citizen.”

Tyma said when ads try to boil down complex issues and weaknesses about candidates for the audience to easily understand the message, people don’t buy it.

“When you’re trying to get the undecided voter, the people who aren’t feeling it completely, why would you act like the person you tried to get out of office?” Tyma said. “If you are trying to get someone who has made a business out of insulting people out of office, perhaps you shouldn’t insult people in your campaign.”

Even if I feel like I will be turned off by the incoming negative campaign ads on TV, I feel it is important to know information on the candidates running so that I can make an informed decision to vote in the 2020 Election. Yet, how can weed out the hoopla and the unnecessary mudslinging to know the truth behind a candidate?

“Look them up for yourself by going to their website and read about what they have done,” Reilly said. “Ignore all of the extra things and focus on the message they are trying to deliver.”

Tyma said one of the important details he tells students to notice when watching political ads is what is used in them to target the right demographic.

“The citizen in me says, ‘Listen to the policy, not the sales pitch. Listen to what they are actually saying and not just what their sales pitch is,’” Tyma said. “The media critic and the scholar in me says ‘Watch how they use the visuals behind their campaigns. How are they staging it?’”

Tyma said there are many factors in political ads that people should focus on including the settings, how much of the American flag is used, what are the song choices for the ad, what words are repeated over and over again and many more.

“It depends on ‘What’s the actual policy’ vs. ‘What’s the pitch,’” Tyma said.  “You’re going to read the ads differently whether you are in the position of a citizen or a media scholar,” Tyma said.

Additionally, if you get overwhelmed with political ads on TV, radio and online, it’s best to take a break for a while and occupy your time with other things like exercise or reading a book. Be careful, however, not to let political fatigue stop you from voting in the 2020 Election.