Vanderbilt professor moderates roundtable discussion on political advertising
With the days dwindling until voters make their final decisions at the polls, politicians and political analysts demonstrated what can happen to negative campaigns during an on-campus lecture.
Leading the presentation, Vanderbilt University professor John G. Geer revealed the study Oct. 23 in the Student Union ballroom titled, “Advertising the 2012 Presidential Campaign: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” His research studies the effects negative presidential ad campaigns have on the American politics and people.
The conversation-style presentation was a round table discussion that included former Tennessee Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon, State Senator Jim Tracy, Republican politician and media consultant Bill Fletcher and Jeff Whorley, who ran for Congress in 1994.
Greer drew attention to the fact that every politician wants to paint themselves in a good light with the negative campaign ads holding them accountable.
“When you go negative, you have to document it,” Geer said. “You can’t make it up. Negative ads are four times more likely to have documentation.”
Greer addressed that the polarization of advertisements and demonstrated that the majority of American voters already know which candidate they want in office.
“By November 2011, 94 percent of Americans determined whether they were or were not going to vote Obama back in,” Geer said.
The remaining 6 percent of the population are the target for the millions of dollars spent by both parties during the presidential election. Geer pointed out that those ads do not make much impact, with only one out of 22 negative campaign ads showing a difference in the polls.
Even more so, political science professor Kent Syler presented in the lecture that 80 percent of the population does not believe that the government keeps the public’s best interest in mind, especially where the ads are concerned.
However, the execution of negative ads remains an emotional process that a toll not only on the politicians, but also on their family members.
“The decision making is a big deal,” Whorely said. “It’s a very deep, personal thing to decide if we pull the trigger.”
The emotional issue caused the most concern among the round table members and how it affects political candidates.
Every candidate agreed that negative advertisements will latch on to almost anything that could be called into question, from personal character to the size of your apartment.
“If any of you wants to run for office,” Fletcher said. “The first thing you want to do is clear out your Facebook tonight.”
The panel discussed the ability to shrug off personal attacks from negative advertisement campaigns as well as the funding to return fire with the politician’s own personal advertisement campaign presents an intimidation factor.
“You always want to smile and look pretty,” Tracy said. “Because the one day that you don’t, it will be the photo that ends up on every piece of media they use.”