Why are all the current political ads <only> negative?

I feel that political ads in general vary from misleading to highly misleading to outright false, but this election seems worse than ever.

In the recent print ads in my mailbox and the online ads tacked on to YouTube stuff, nothing is positive. They never say who to vote for, but who is the spawn of Satan and must be purged.

Example…I have a 4 page printed, mailed ad claiming one candidate for Wisconsin senate “supports raising taxes on farmers and manufacturers,” which would “eliminate 40,000 jobs” and put all farmers out of business. There’s no mention of the opponent’s name, and if you aren’t aware of the race, you have no way of finding out from the brochure who they are touting. The bad guy’s name is mentioned 6 times; the good guy, never. The organization that claims to have paid for this ad is “Wisconsin Alliance for Reform,” which really narrows it down, eh?

I just listened to a LWV forum between the two candidates for this position, and nowhere did this candidate say he wants to raise taxes, or eliminate jobs. In fact, he comes from a business background and last year was in charge of a successful local business/government partnership, a loan and development fund. But no one would know from this ad, would they?

Is all of this just an extension of Trumpism? Where you can make any goddamn claim you want, the more false and outrageous the better, and never have to back down or prove your claims? Or has it always been this way and I am just now waking up?

Here in Texas Beto (Democrat running for senate as you might have heard) is only running positive ads. His opponent Cruz only runs negative ads. Cruz has been pulling further ahead since the ads started.

Everyone says they hate negative ads, yet those are the ads that work.

it’s funny when you compare to all other types of ads. Honda does not bash Toyota, Ford does not bash Honda, and so on.

sometimes negative ads can go too far and backfire. We had one not long ago where the ad strongly implied a Dem was an atheist . there was a voiceover that said “there is no God” The Dem beat the incumbent GOP senator in a close race.

It’s easier to get voters to believe bad things about your opponent than to get them to believe good things about yourself.

Because apparently they are more effort-efficient than making a case to vote FOR someone.

I’d say that part has to do with campaign finance rules for PACs, independent organizations, etc. whereby a group can more freely spend money “informing” the public about Candidate A’s (bad, of course) positions on issues; while avoiding anything that looks like they are coordinating with Candidate B’s campaign to urge people to vote for B.

People don’t want a politician who intends to do something.

If you say, “I’m going to do X.” Then you’ve lost everyone who is against X. If you say, “He’s going to do X.” Then you’ve gained everyone who is against X.

In politics, you largely only lose people through your policy. You don’t gain them.

If Ted Cruz ever said something positive about anything the fabric of space-time would rip asunder. His entire message is how immigrants are just one bollard fence away from gang-rushing the US border and raping every man, woman, child, and dog. And of course, Texans eat that shit up like they eat deep fried Jell-O.

This long predates Trump; negative ads have been demonstrably more effective since people started voting for their leaders instead of having them imposed by watery tarts slinging swords out of lake. But Trump took it to new levels of shameless lying even by Newt Gingrich standards, and we can expect this to have an impact on elections for the foreseeable future. Nothing gets people as excited as blood in shark-infested water.


If a candidate is poor in some way - bad voting record, bad policy positions - pointing those out can be effective. Would that be considered negative?

I’ve gotten plenty of positive ads in my mailbox but they were from the incumbent touting all the supposed good he’s doing for the district. I’ve gotten plenty of negative ads as well, and it’s true that in other media the majority of ads remain negative.

Yes. Pointing out the positive things about the desired candidate would be the opposite.

Most people already know whom they are voting for. They don’t need to hear positive things about their party’s nominee. But a negative ad can persuade some people to stay home and not vote at all.

This. People are not going to switch between “voting for A” and “voting for B”, but can be switched from “voting for B” to “staying home”, which is almost as good for A, and much easier to accomplish.

I fail to see why negative ads (or any ads) would persuade anyone NOT to go to the polls at all. Would that just be from frustration as to who to pick?

I kind of want to know what’s wrong with the other guy’s position. it doesn’t take very long to say that you are going to try and raise jobs and lower taxes.

Think of all the people who in 2016 said “it doesn’t matter who wins, both candidates are horrible.”

Because pretty much everyone running is a bad human being and there is nothing good to say about them.

I find it interesting that you bemoan negative ads, yet finish with a negative “ad” against Trump.

And this is really it.

WAAAY back in college - dinosaurs and such - I did a senior project analyzing political advertising. I didn’t find that negative ads changed anyone’s mind on which candidate they supported. But I did find a pretty strong inverse correlation between the amount of negative ads and voter turnout. In effect, negative ads reduce people’s willingness to come to the ballot box.

If Cruz is doing so, he’s likely attempting to lower turnout among all voters knowing that the hardcore - which he believes favor him - will still come out. The marginal voters will stay home in greater numbers and likely favor O’Rourke.

What is, IMO, the most famous political ad in history was negative - LBJ’s 1964 “countdown” ad.

Also, in one of the 1980 debates - I want to say the Reagan-Carter one - I seem to recall one of the last questions being, “Gentlemen, you’ve spent the past hour telling us why you should be elected President; could you tell us why your opponent shouldn’t?”

My best guess is, negative ads are remembered more than positive ones.

However, JRDelirious makes a point with the “attack ads that don’t mention the ‘good candidate’ aren’t subject to as many money restrictions” reasoning.

Not any more.

Personally, I wouldn’t have any idea who to vote against, if candidates didn’t help me out by airing grainy, unflattering black-and-white photos of their opponents, while scary music plays and voice-overs emphasize what evil beings they are.