Have you ever been persuaded/swayed by an attack ad?

Generally, negative campaigning or attack ads make me more inclined to oppose the candidate/side that is running such ads than the candidate being attacked. It does look like the general populace is swayed somewhat (i.e., Bush Sr’s relentless attacks on Dukakis helped turn a 17-point Dukakis lead into an 8-point defeat on Election Day, although that was thirty years ago), but I would be curious to see the breakdown by categories of education, race, income, gender, religion, etc.
Anyway, what do Dopers feel about attack ads and negative campaigning (directed at you, the voter?) Yay or nay?

A lot of the time, attack ads peddle to voters’ fears and insecurities.

For example, say you live in a white-majority district in middle America. Most of the people in the district vote Republican. An opposition candidate, whether he or she is Democrat, Independent or Libertarian, gains a following among voters. The Republican incumbent starts airing a series of attack ads to defend his or her seat in the upcoming election.

Now, in an ideal situation, the incumbent would avoid using attack ads unless the person running has, say, been convicted of a major crime, such as fraud, money laundering or anything a normal person would consider dangerous to the integrity of public office.

But, this is 2018, and all bets are off.

Instead, the incumbent peddles to his or her base, saying the opponent is not “tough on crime” (keeping minorities out of the community); doesn’t want to protect American jobs (spew bullshit about resuscitating industries on the brink of collapse, i.e. coal mining); or, most commonly, is an Obama-loving, Clinton-supporting liberal who is out to destroy everything good about America.

When it comes to attack ads, it’s important to read the fine print. Who is paying for the ad? What is their agenda? If an opposition candidate is for closing a coal mine to build a school, the coal lobby will run an ad, using the candidate as a prop.

Follow the money, as they say, and you can figure who is pulling a candidate’s strings. Those are the groups you should be worried about.

Right - but I’m asking how Dopers feel about attack ads aimed at them themselves, trying to persuade their vote against Candidate X.

For me, it depends on the ad. If one spews some gross accusations, I’m motivated to learn more about them. I don’t feel scared if an ad says, “If you vote for Brown, you are with ISIS.” This is not a real ad, obviously, but I know there are some that use the same fear-mongering language. If anything, that makes me upset because these ads are playing to people’s fears.

I’ve never made a voting decision based on ads, unless you count when I was a little kid voting in a mock election. In that case, it was that Ross Perot seemed funny, not anything he said about other politicians.

I’ve never voted in an era without the Internet and the ability to do my own research on people’s positions.

If I had been, would I know? Everyone thinks that they’re too independent-minded to be swayed by ads (of any sort), and yet advertising is a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Despite being middle aged I never really consumed media with these ads in my adult life, but I have changed my vote on a state level candidate because they self funded an attack ad.

It pushed me over to their opponent just because they resorted to the attack, demonstrating that the other party better aligned with my world views.

There was a Republican running in Indiana, who I was already not inclined to vote for, who directed some attack ads at his opponent, making me even less inclined to vote for him. Then his opponent ran a counter-attack ad. I bothered to look up what his opponent was saying, and it turned out to be true, so yeah, the attack ads “worked,” in that I was kind of thinking I might not vote for either one of them, but I really didn’t want to hand the election to Republicans, which is why I did the research.

The opponent could have passed on the information in the attack ad without making an ad that made the guy look like a South Park character, I thought, but there were maybe some people who already disliked the guy more than I did who enjoyed it.

my mom HATES Mike Madigan for “reasons” that she can’t quite articulate. and up until recently was in favor of JB Pritzker but now she’s questioning that because of attack ads linking Pritzker to Madigan.
so there’s one data point.


Nope. I ignore them all. In the '16 election I even started ignoring the talking points. The debates were hard to watch because of the pre-canned statements. And Trumps joke lines just made me want to puke. I couldn’t swallow it all. It was horrible and the nightmare continues.

I have not been persuadable in my entire adult life.

Yes. Persuaded not to vote for the person who put out the attack ad. Any party.

This. An attack makes me suspect the attacker.

Exactly. The whole point of advertising is to influence the decisions you make. That generally works better when the influencing is occurring at a subconscious level.

This is why some political campaigns misdirect the origins of the attack. Candidate A is running against Candidates B and C. A puts out an attack against B. And then leaks information that it was C that put out the attack.

If an ad makes specific claims about what a candidate has done, has said, plans to do, etc., and those claims bother me, I’m going to check up on them and see if they’re true, and what the context is.

The result of such checking up might be to turn me off the candidate who was attacked, or it might be to turn me off the candidate doing the attacking.

I’m not categorically against all negative ads. If there’s a good reason to vote against a particular candidate and keep them out of office, I’d like to know about it.


Negative ads wouldn’t affect my vote for President – too much is at stake. And if the election was close, they wouldn’t change my vote for US Senate or House of Representatives. Governor? Hard to say. But beyond that I do look for the candidate who is less negative.
An example for me is that even though I’m a Democrat, I voted for the Republican for my county prosecutor last time. The negative attacks were on the Republican for not having prosecuted one certain individual. It didn’t matter to me who the individual was – I thought it was outrageous to campaign on such a platform.

The fact that the Democrat went on to win and then successfully prosecute Bill Cosby doesn’t change my mind. I don’t want a candidate to go negative against an individual, whether a political opponent or someone they want locked up. In this case, the Democrat was more negative in both ways.

The conventional wisdom is that attack ads aren’t really intended to get you to vote for Candidate A, just to make you not vote for Candidate B. In other words, A is trying to get you to stay home, believing that A’s positive ads/built-in base/superior get out the vote organization/etc. will turn out enough supporters to win.

Quite the contrary. Attack ads that I have heard/seen in Canada generally make me feel more negatively towards the candidate running the ads…

Same here. And I always vote no matter what, so no ad will ever keep me home.

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