I am constantly curious. I always have been. Growing up, I was that annoying little kid who was either buried in a book or asking an inordinate amount of questions. I just love learning things. School is seriously my favorite. I blame Belle in Beauty and the Beast for turning me into such a freak as a kid…
Seriously though, how great is she?
So, naturally, as I grew older, it seemed natural for me to begin to really enjoy research. Again, I just love learning things.
I also see the world in stories. Some people insist “a picture is worth a thousand words” but I believe that the right word is worth a thousand pictures. Scenes from my daily life become intricately intertwined threads in the narrative web of my brain. That’s why I chose to major in Strategic Communications with a minor in Political Science. I want to spend my life telling the story of a candidate whose message I believe in.
Each of these traits helped motivate my research project and process.
Therefore, when I found my cracked article, I was intrigued. I want to know how to best communicate my message to the electorate, were negative ads really the best way?
I spent several hours over the past few weeks digging my way through sources, sources, and more sources. I’m currently in a 4000 level Poli Sci class called Media & Politics, which deals with a lot of these issues. My professor for this class is also a researcher who is conducting field experiments across the country, which test the effectiveness of negative advertisements. The material covered in that class, as well as several conversations with him, helped me locate prestigious scholars who had already conducted a lot of research in this area. That class provided me with an understanding of the concepts and a springboard for locating reliable sources. This paper also motivated me to get involved with research in the realm of negative advertisements on a personal level. In fact, I’ll be helping with those field experiments as an RA next semester.
So, this has been great. I’ve gotten to learn. I’ve gotten to learn more about telling stories that resonate with people. I’ve gotten to explore new academic opportunities. So, yay for research and living intellectually ever after…
I hope Belle would approve. 😉
Well, folks, it’s been nearly six weeks. Six weeks of sources, questions, hypotheses, blog posts, and searching. I’m sure that at some point during the past 40 days each of us felt sort of like we were drowning in sources and information like this…
However, I’m proud to say that we’ve finally surfaced. We’ve gotten our bearings and we’re ready to begin articulating our own arguments. Congratulations, everyone. I’m quite proud of us. Now, allow me to introduce you to some of my new friends who helped guide me through this process…
1.) “8 Election Myths You Probably Believe” -cracked.com.
Myth #7: “Campaign Ads Run Mindless Attack Ads Instead of Giving Us Substance.” is what started this whole endeavor. The myth claims that people reject negativity because they believe it is disdainful and uncivil. The authors of this article, however, counter-argue that negative ads actually grip our attention and spur us onto political engagement. This claim is the basis of my argument.
2.) “The Moderating Influence of Political Involvement on Voters’ Attitudes Toward Attack Ads.” – George W. Stone, Jeffrey G. Blodgett, Japhet Nkonge and Kathryn T. Cort (Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice).
The authors of this article stated that the aim of their study was to determine the productivity of attack ads in reaching different types of political audiences. Ultimately, the authors of this article found that those who are not as politically involved viewed the negative ads as more credible, since they pointed out the weaknesses of one candidate, while those who were highly politically involved were more skeptical. This article ultimately reinforced the idea that negative ads motivate people, however, it also inspired me to examine how political sophistication plays a role in one’s perception of these negative ads.
According to the authors’ conclusions in this book, “negative adverts also work better than positive ones” by electrifying each candidate’s partisan base, “so attacking has become nearly universal.” This book motivated me to include partisan bias as a heuristic and determiner for my hypothesis along with political involvement/sophistication.
4.) “Beyond Negativity: The Effects of Incivility on the Electorate.” – Deborah Jordan Brooks and John G. Geer (American Journal of Political Science).
This study surveyed a national sample of adults who recorded their responses to a series campaign ads, which the authors of this study produced These ads were based off of real campaign ads. These replications were designed to test three dimensions of campaign advertisements. Ultimately, the results of this study that agreed with my previous findings by declaring, “those least-liked, least-valued kinds of messages may modestly stimulate two things that we tend to care a great deal about as a society: political interest and improving likelihood to vote.”
5.) “Negative Political Advertising and Voting Intent: The Role of Involvement and Alternative Information Sources.” -Ronald J. Faber, Albert R. Tims, and Kay G. Schmitt (Journal of Advertising).
Faber, Tims, and Schmitt concluded that negative ads impact various types of voters in a multitude of ways. Therefore, it is important to remember the scope in which these conclusions are being discussed. I really enjoyed this article because it assured me that my determiners were building on each other to create a conversation that is aimed at specific demographics of the electorate.
6.)”Examining the Possible Corrosive Impact of Negative Advertising on Citizens’ Attitudes toward Politics.” – Robert A. Jackson, Jeffery J. Mondak, and Robert Huckfeldt (Political Research Quarterly).
The authors employed data indicators from the 2002 WiscAds Project and from the 2002 Exercising Citizenship in American Democracy Survey to determine both ad exposure and ad tone as perceived by nearly 2,00 random participants from two national surveys both pre-election and post-election. This article didn’t focus on voter turnout, however, it did put things into perspective for me. It merely gave me new information about ad tone and ad exposure, which will ultimately make me a more informed researcher.
7.) The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising. – Travis N. Ridout and Michael M. Franz.
This book specifically focused on the emotional appeals made in attack ads on television. Rather than using age, education, political sophistication, or partisan bias as determiners, this book focused on how the medium through which these negative ads were conveyed mobilized voters. This also helped narrow the focus of my study.
8.) “Do Negative Campaigns Mobilize or Suppress Turnout? Clarifying the Relationship between Negativity and Participation” – Kim Fridkin Kahn and Patrick J. Kenney (The American Political Science Review).
This article is basically the perfect summary of my hypothesis. It concludes that partisan voters or those who are more politically sophisticated are likely to go to the polls no matter what. However, Independents and those who are not as politically sophisticated are more likely to be motivated to vote based on the negative ads that instantly grab their attention.
So, that’s who I’ve met, what I’ve learned, and where I am. I’m excited to begin organizing all of this into an argument of my own. I can’t wait to see what each of you has developed… Now, just hang in there. We’re really close to finishing the race.
Some people find sanctuary in a cathedral. Others find solace in nature. Nearly everyone has a hallowed place where there truly focus and find peace. For me, I believe this place might be the library. The library has the intricacies, complexities, and architectural majesty of a cathedral. If you asked me, I’d say that the shelves certainly soar like flying buttresses. The pages of books act as gateways to worlds far grander and more expansive and beautiful than any nature of the prairie land I could run to here in Oklahoma. So, needless to say, my time spent in the library was a refreshing aspect of this research process.
The library is a place where I feel completely whole. In a library, I’m at home. Therefore, I really didn’t encounter many challenges while searching for sources. I think it was really helpful, at least for me personally, to be able to find tangible books. I always enjoy and glean more from a book if I can hold it and interact with it. I found three books (The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising, Pulp Politics, and Going Negative), which reinforce my hypothesis (voter turnout correlates positively to negative political advertisements) while shedding light on more details that I probably wouldn’t have found in a research article. The sheer amount of information included in a book far exceeds what can be included in a research article, so I’m learning a lot. I find that very exciting. I’ve been grateful for our library days. I’ve found that the pursuit of information in a library is both liberty and life-giving.
While previous posts of mine and the research of many prominent political scientists have established that negative ads can increase voter turnout, there is some speculation that the negativity of these ads are corroding the integrity of our political worldview.
So, it is exactly this claim that Jackson, Mondak, and Huckfeldt choose to investigate in their article “Examining the Possible Corrosive Impact of Negative Advertising on Citizens’ Attitudes toward Politics.”
By using data indicators from the 2002 WiscAds Project and from the 2002 Exercising Citizenship in American Democracy Survey to determine both ad exposure and ad tone as perceived by nearly 2,00 random participants from two national surveys both pre-election and post-election, the authors of this article were able to conclude that, “we have detected no evidence whatsoever to cor- roborate the case against negative ads.” The empirical evidence from this study neither confirmed nor contradicted the notion that negative ads corrode political integrity or trust in government. This data proved null primarily because mass perception is difficult to gauge, simply because of each participants individuality and scattered responses.
Therefore, this article merely put things into perspective for me. Aspects of the details of the study itself (which I won’t bore you with, as it is quite an extensive study brimming with numbers and statistics) may prove to be useful. It did not, however, confirm or deny my cracked article. It merely gave me new information about ad tone and ad exposure, which will ultimately make me a more informed researcher.
Once upon a time, a young girl set out on upon a noble quest. She was deeply troubled by the whirlwind of negativity and materialism, which the leaders of her kingdom displayed. She determined to discover the rationale behind their actions.
The first step of her quest required her to plunge into the murky depths of research. The amount of information she waded through was overwhelming and began to bog her down. Just as despair seemed to encompass her every thought, she remembered a gift, which had been bestowed upon her by her Fairy Librarian.
The gift of EBSCO possessed magical powers of clarity, sorting, and insight. By using this tool as her guide, her adventure in the realm of research was smooth sailing.
Thanks to EBSCO, she quickly made three new friends who would help her decipher the actions of the corrupted rulers of her kingdom.
Faber, Tims, and Schmitt explained to her how previous habits can influence a person’s susceptibility to the influence of these negative attacks.
Jackson, Mondak, and Huckfeldt further described the contrast between citizens responding to these attacks with either political cynicism or increased curiosity.
Krupnikov taught her that everything we make is a choice, however, the environment we live in and the conduct of our leaders can shape those choices.
So, in the end, thanks to the gift of her Fairy Librarian and her new friends that she met in the Database Swamp, our heroine felt thoroughly equipped to further investigate the calamities of her kingdom, so that others can live happily ever after.
Sometimes, research can be overwhelming there’s a whole ocean of data floating around in cyberspace and it seems nearly impossible to know where to begin.
BRB. Drowning in data. SOS.
However, all this angst can be avoided if you simply have the right tools. I found that the databases, like EBSCO, that the OSU library provided made for smooth sailing and a carefree research experience.
Databases: dream come true.
The keywords I chose instantly brought up a slew of relevant articles from peer-reviewed journals. I chose to examine three that examine similar aspects of the same topic. Each of my articles delves into another aspect of why and how negative ads work. These new articles examine the conditions surrounding people’s reactions to negative campaign ads, therefore, I feel like they will add another dimension of depth to my research. Now that I know that most scholars believe negative ads do work, I’m excited to see if that is true across all contexts and in all scenarios.
Are negative ads a reflection of an uncivil culture or do they encourage incivility? Are our politicians and their actions tributes to our own actions and ideals or do their choices spawn a chain reaction of incivility? How should we, as voters and engaged citizens, respond? These are some of the questions Brooks and Greer attempt to answer in their article “Beyond Negativity” The Effects of Incivility on the Electorate.”
Their study surveyed a national sample of adults who recorded their responses to a series campaign ads, which the authors of this study produced These ads were based off of real campaign ads. These replications were designed to test three dimensions of campaign advertisements.
The first dimension of the study addressed the positivity and negativity. Basically, if an ad is positive, it focuses on something everyone loves. These ads focus on things like education, butterflies, rainbows, or puppies
Kisses and puppies? I mean, what more are you looking for, America?
The team chose to use negative ads that focused on the unfavorable aspects of a candidate’s opponent.
Really, Romney? Really?
The second dimension of the study centered on trait vs issue focus ads. “Trait” ads attack the personal characteristics of a candidates’ opponent.
While “issue” focused ads attack flawed policies of a candidate’s opponent.
The third dimension of the study focuses on determining whether an ad is negative and uncivil or simply negative. An ad is both negative and uncivil when it crosses the line into the realm of excessive criticism without adding any new substantive information.
The authors recognize that this study is not definitive, since it relies solely on opinion. However, they do feel like they can conclude (like authors Nkonge, Stone, Cort, and Blodgett of “The Moderating Influence of Political Involvement on Voters’ Attitudes Toward Attack Ads,” as well as teh authors of my cracked.com article) that “those least-liked, least-valued kinds of messages may modestly stimulate two things that we tend to care a great deal about as a society: political interest and improving likelihood to vote.”
Why on earth is the political spectrum so polluted with partisan attack ads? Is it because they work? Well, according to Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar’s book Going Negative: How Political Ads Shrink and Polarize the Electorate, they do work. According to the authors’ conclusions, “negative adverts also work better than positive ones, so attacking has become nearly universal,” however, the summary states “the authors also argue that as independent voters are driven away by all this negativity, the voting public is increasingly reduced to partisan extremes.”
Brooks and Greer agree in their article “Beyond Negativity: The Effects of Incivility on the Electorate” by declaring, “we see some suggestive evidence that those least-liked, least-valued kinds of messages may modestly stimulate two things that we tend to care a great deal about as a society: political interest and improving likelihood to vote.”
So, the problem may not lie within the politicians themselves, as much as it lies with the public to whom they pander. I mean, let’s face it, we, as Americans, place a great value on entertainment. Scandal and fist-fights intrigue us. There’s a reason that the slogan of local news is “if it bleeds, it leads.” These negative attack ad spark our imagination and mesmerize us like little toddlers.
Whoa! Fighting?! SCORE.
However, as Faber, Tims, and Schmitt point out in “Negative Political Advertising and Voting Intent: The Role of Involvement and Alternative Information Sources,” negative ads reach various types of voters. Therefore, it is important to remember the scope in which these conclusions are being discussed. Each article builds off one another to create a conversation that is aimed at specific demographics of the electorate.
I am looking forward to delving further into the psyches of the demographics that are and are not affected by these negative attack ads.
It would seem safe to assume that many people, who loathe the ethics of attack ads, would be unaffected by these negative ad campaigns. However, according to an article titled The Moderating Influence of Political Involvement on Voter’ Attitudes Toward Attack Ads, which I found on JSTOR, these mudslinging ads may be affective after all.
Partisan Mudslinging: America’s Favorite Pastime.
The authors of this article stated that the aim of their study was to determine the productivity of attack ads in reaching different types of political audiences. The authors conducted two surveys during a presidential election. The first survey examined how individuals who were highly involved with politics reacted to general campaign ads as compared to those who are less politically involved. The second study gauged the different reactions of these same groups to negative attack ads. Ultimately, the authors of this article found that those who are not as politically involved viewed the negative ads as more credible, since they pointed out the weaknesses of one candidate, while those who were highly politically involved were more skeptical.
The article 8 Election Myths You Probably Believe from cracked.com echos this belief that many people find negative ads to be more compelling than your typical campaign ad with puppies and rainbows and American flags everywhere. The article, however, does not make any distinction o political sophistication. Also, while the authors of these two separate articles may reach the same conclusion, it is for entirely different reasons.
I look forward to digging into more of the reasons why people find negative campaign ads to be compelling and credible over the course of this project.