What Exactly Is It? • Negative campaigning : trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent or of a policy rather than emphasizing one’s own positive attributes or preferred policies • Specifically, negative advertisements: • Useful in shaping public opinion, appeal to emotion • May backfire if ad is too personal or too negative
The History The beginning of American campaign costs started with money spent on advertising. • 1791 – groups supporting/opposing Alexander Hamilton published competing newspapers in hopes of swaying the electorate • 1880 – candidates had to rely on other resources, like songs and ballads, to get out their names and messages
The History (cont.) Slogans were used to help citizens remember candidates and their positions. • 1860 – Abraham Lincoln : “Vote Yourself a Farm” • 1900 – William McKinley : “A Full Dinner-Pail” • 1920 – Warren G. Harding about opponent James M. Cox : “Cox and Cocktails”
The History (cont.)Negative television campaign advertisements “Daisy Girl” – one of the most famous negative television campaign advertisements • Created by Tony Schwartz of Doyle Dane Bernbach for the Lyndon B. Johnson camp • Portrayed Johnson’s opponent, Republican Barry Goldwater, as threatening a nuclear war aired only once, during the movie of the week on Sept. 7, 1964 • “An important turning point in political and advertising history.”
History (cont.) Dirty tricks are common in negative political campaigns: • Secretly leaking damaging information to the media: • Protect candidates from backlash • Do not cost any money • Must be substantive enough to attract media interest • If the truth is discovered it could severely damage a campaign • Trying to feed an opponent’s team false information hoping they will use it and embarrass themselves
What Needs To Be Done? Negative advertising causes a lack of respect for the candidates and actually reduces voter turnout. • U.S. gov’t – pass legislation to force candidates to speak on issues • U.S. public – demand elections to focus on the issues, not personal issues • Journalists – cover an election as an election, not a boxing match
Why Isn’t “It” Getting Done? • According to a study, negative campaigning is neither more nor less effective than a campaign run with a positive approach, leading to the question of why negative advertising is used at all. • Candidates often pledge to refrain from negative campaigning, but the pledge is usually abandoned when an opponent is seen as going negative. • Negative advertising tends to be mutual and is almost exclusively reciprocal, therefore hard to stop on either end.
Why Isn’t “It” Getting Done? (cont.) • Regulations have been proposed to limit negative political advertising • Regulating political messages on T.V. and radio, where negative claims may not be fully explained or clarified due to time constraints, or expanding disclosure requirements in printed advertisements. • These restrictions have never reached fruition because the effort to set laws wouldn’t be worth the results according to many legislators.
Why Isn’t “It” Getting Done? (cont.) • If laws/regulations were set against negative advertisements, the right to freedom of speech would be comprised. • Negative campaigning promotes political participation, particularly among those not inclined to involvement in campaigns, voting, etc. • No solution has been offered that doesn’t conflict with the first amendment that would also be effective.
The Media’s Role • With increasing influence, it is on the media’s shoulders to curb the effects of negative advertising on the campaigns of politicians. • The potential impact of not discussing the issues makes it a near obligation for media outlets to see through smear campaigns for what they are
The Media’s Role (cont.) • In the 2004 presidential elections, a group called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ran a series of ads questioning Kerry’s leadership and the validity of his medals from Vietnam • Rather than denounce the ads as relevant, or not give them exposure at all, CNN and MSNBC ran the ads during their regular programming. Although Fox News chose not to run the ads, Bill O’Reilly and Hannity and Colmes spent entire segments and shows dedicated to discussing the potential validity.
The Media’s Role (cont.) • Sometimes, networks themselves get tangled into negative campaigning • Although it was not an advertisement, in 2004 CBS ran a story on an uncovered document that “proved” Bush was derelict in his National Guard duties. • CBS and Dan Rather (often accused of having a “liberal bias”) faced trouble when the document could not be authenticated by any valid source. • The fallout from the incident led to several resignations by producers, and perhaps even and early departure for Rather.
The Media’s Role (cont.) • In the 2006 midterm elections, Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford Jr. ran a heated campaign against one another for the available senate seat in Tennessee. • The Republican National Committee ran an attack ad on Ford • Attack Ad • The ad met immediate backlash from the media, with near universal agreement that the ad had crossed a line that some even called “racist.” • Although the ad did not face removal, the backlash it received has helped to establish the media’s ability to set standards on the decency of content in negative campaigning.
The Media’s Role (cont.)Media Failures • In 1964, the infamous Daisy ad, although aired only once, was repeatedly shown on media outlets and discussed by political panels. • Media made a spectacle of the event by saturating the airwaves with the advertisement, allowing its effect to reach millions that it would not have otherwise. • In the 2000 primaries, the media neglected to launch investigative reports against a series of push polls run by George W. Bush’s campaign against McCain. • The polls attempted to trick voters into questioning McCain’s character by implying he had fathered an illegitimate black child.
How N.J. Compares to the U.S.Where N.J. stands • One of the most politically competitive states in America • Historically split between Republicans and Democrats • Known for “take-no-prisoners politics” • Recent senate race – of 270 campaigns, N.J. ranked 5th in “Independent Expenditures” • Increase in negative campaigning changes races
How N.J. Compares to the U.S.N.J. Laws • “Stand by Your Ad” (SBYA) laws in N.J. and Virginia in late 1990’s • hope to decrease negative campaigning by requiring candidates to appear on their ads and take responsibility for them • Idea behind the law – voters will be turned off by candidates linked with negative message
How N.J. Compares to the U.S.How the people of N.J. feel • Most recent race was disturbing to voters • Don’t feel good about choices • 5:1 ratio of N.J. voters said recent Senate campaign was dirty • 4 in 10 blamed both but rest (32%) blamed Kean and 20% blamed Menendez • Drives down enthusiasm of independent voters • 2 million of states 4.8 million voters