Do negative campaign ads work?

Thursday, December 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's certainly not the first time anyone's seen a negative political ad. But do the ads really work?

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says you would assume that these ads "do" work, otherwise why bother? But that may not be the case. We talked with one expert about some studies on negative ads. We talked to some folks on the street.

And we talked to the target of the ad. Democratic candidate Doug Dodd was the target of one ad. So how does he feel about negative campaign ads? "I've been told by people around the country that everybody hates it and it works." But Dodd may not have as much to worry about as he thinks, according to University of Tulsa Political Science Professor Ed Dreyer. "The public does dislike negative ads, but the overall question, how effective are they? Is really undecided."

He says the ads rarely change people's minds one way or the other. What's more he says they often backfire. Dreyer says studies show positive opinions for the attacker decrease and positive opinion for the target go up. People we talked to on the street tends to agree. Mark Smalley, "I think anytime people are negative like that it has the opposite effect, because it's like it's almost like why are you making up this stuff." Kelli Fritz, "And the campaign ads, whether it's negative or positive, I just go on to something else."

Sullivan has stressed that it was the State Republican Committee that took out the ad, not him. But last year, in the race for the 2nd Congressional District, it was the same story for Republican Andy Ewing, when the Republican Committee ran negative ads against Democrat Brad Carson. Ewing was criticized and Carson won.

Dreyer says in one study, the person who starts the mudslinging, or is "perceived" to have started it, lost 18 out of 25 races.

A controversial campaign ad targeting 1st congressional district candidate Doug Dodd has been pulled. The state GOP chairman says the decision to pull the ad had nothing to do with the criticism it's generated.