Why Political Ads Are Ridiculous

17 10 2010

With election season come political ads and political ads drive me crazy.

No candidate is going to convince me to vote for them either by smearing an opponent’s character or by standing by the family dog and promising me things will be better with him/her in office.  Political ads are nothing but hot air.  The smears they make against opponents are just as likely false as true.  The same goes for the promises they make.

I have two major beefs with political ads.  First, it seems ludicrous to me that making a smear ad should make voters more likely to vote for the one doing the smearing.  What it says to me is that the candidate is immature and has too little confidence in his/her own platform to rely on it alone.  Indeed, in the case of Whitman and Brown in California, their back and forth smearing has caused me to dislike both of them.  And I still barely know what they actually stand for.

To talk about my second beef I’m going to get psychological on y’all.  Stay with me here.  In the early 80s, two psychologists, R. E. Petty and J. T. Cacioppo, developed the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion.  This model states that there are two routes to persuasion: the central route and the peripheral route.

The central route requires a lot of thought and rational consideration of the merits and flaws of a particular message.  People use central route processing when the message is very important to them and they are willing and able to give it a lot of attention.  Therefore, people engaged in central route processing are only convinced by strong evidence and rational arguments.

The peripheral route does not require much thought or rational consideration and instead relies on environmental characteristics of the message such as the credibility of the source, the perceived quality of the message, the attractiveness of the source or a catchphrase, for example.  Peripheral route processing occurs when the message isn’t particularly important to a person or they are unwilling or unable to make a thorough, rational consideration of the message.

Political ads contain no information that is useful in making a rational and thoughtful decision about the merits of a political candidate or platform, they are only meant to stir up the viewer’s emotions.  This makes me mad for two reasons.  First, politicians are assuming that most of the electorate is either too apathetic or too stupid to carefully think about the candidate for whom to vote.  Second, politicians keep making these ads because many people are too apathetic or too stupid to realize they are being duped by immature emotional appeals.

Don’t be fooled!  Politicians treat voters like Pavlov’s dog.  If Meg Whitman shows us pictures of Jerry Brown with a scowling face, while playing depressing music and using large, bold, red text, she’s trying to get us to associate Jerry Brown with bad things.  If Jerry Brown shows us pictures of himself with his smiling family, in front of a rose garden, with an American flag flying behind him(I don’t know if he’s actually done this, it’s just an example), all while playing inspirational music, he’s trying to get us to associate him with good things.  Neither message contains any useful information about a political platform.  Pay attention and look beyond the ads!

P.S. – Why can’t we have a viable third candidate in the California gubernatorial race?  I don’t want Brown or Whitman.


Cartoon from picturesforsadchildren.com. Funny stuff.





3 responses

17 10 2010
Fred Leavitt

I agree, the most frustrating thing is that this stupid adds seem to work. What does that say about the majority of the voters?

18 10 2010

Not all political ads are bad. Here’s a particularly thoughtful ad from the mayoral election in Winnipeg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLfbtduLaho&feature=player_embedded

31 10 2010

The other day, I was watching an American channel and could not get over that every. single. commercial. was a political ad and each of them were so mean! I’m sad to say that more and more ads like that are appearing in the Great White North, but I’m glad we’re not that bad… yet.

The other day, Kyle and I watched an excellent movie and I instantly thought you would enjoy it too. It’s called “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story” (http://www.boogiemanfilm.com/). It’s obviously not objective – as you can probably deduce from the name – but it does include both sides of the story. I strongly suggest you check it out, especially after this post as he played a huge part in negative-campaigning.

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