Thursday, March 12, 2009

Negative Ads Are More Effective Than We Think

According to a Globe and Mail poll 65% of respondents said personal attacks on politicians only influence their view of the person making the attack. 18% said it influenced both their view of the attacker and the politician being attacked. Surprisingly only 2% of people said it influenced their view of the person being targeted exclusively.

I can't believe these results. Last year's 'Not a Leader' advertisements targeting Stephane Dion were brutally effective. I can't think of any Canadian who wouldn't say that Dion was ineffective and lacking leadership skills. Sure he was partly responsible for this, but I don't believe the image would have stuck if the Tories hadn't first defined him with those advertisements.

I'll agree that my sense of fair play kicks in the first time I see a negative ad or hear someone make an attack. If I perceive it as unfair, I will hold it against the aggressor. But if we hear the message it will still sink in and consciously or not we'll be on the look out for new information that supports or contradicts the charge.

How much do political attacks influence us? I'm not sure, but based on the polling data - it's a safe bet they influence us more than we know.


Ron said...

The funny thing is "attack" ads are usually more truthful and informative than the warm and fuzzy type. It was important to know what style of leader Dion was - him standing around smiling while his caucus clapped their hands didn't do it for me. The "Dion is not a leader" worked because it got me thinking - do I agree or disagree with the statement? This poll is just another one of those where people respond the way they think they should, not the way they actually feel. When the comments made in a hard hitting ad (I hate the attack ad label)ring true, they work; when they don't (soldiers in the streets, Chretien's face ad) ring true, they backfire.

Ted said...

"The funny thing is "attack" ads are usually more truthful and informative than the warm and fuzzy type"

I agree with that statement.

Take for example this youtube video about Harper misleading us on the state of our economy.

- not telling us the truth about jobs

- not telling us the truth about the economy

They are brutally effective and will hurt "The Harper Government" (as it is being re-branded by the Conservatives; not your government, not my government but the "Harper Government"; what arrogance).