Should Voting Be a Negative Experience? Mixed Messages for Voters this Election Day
Has anyone else noticed the large number of negative campaign advertisements this year? With candidates for office increasingly using television as a medium for communicating their ideas, it seems as though every commercial break is filled with messages relating to the elections. More than ever it seems that these ads work to question the character of opponents and reach voters by instilling a sense of fear about what could happen should certain people be put into power. It seems as though we’re constantly being sent the message “don’t vote for this person because…” or “you’ll regret it if you vote for this person…”
Since most people I know are counting down the hours until election day – not because they can’t wait to exercise their right to vote, but more because they can’t wait for these annoying ads to end – I began to wonder whether these ads are truly effective in helping candidates achieve their goals. I have to believe that before spending so much money on developing these types of messages and television advertisements candidates and their supporters must have found research that indicates that these ads are effective. However, I must ask the question – effective in achieving what? Instilling fear in voters? Yes. Speaking badly about other candidates? Check. Talking about their own merits for office?
With voter turnout a consistent problem in this country I wonder if all this publicity for the elections is counter-productive. While more people may be aware that the elections are occurring, I worry that these negative (and border-line obnoxious) campaigns are causing more people to resent the elections, rather than inspire us to get involved. I was always taught that “Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things and little people talk about other people.” With this large amount of “election-day bashing” going on, I find it difficult to respect any of the candidates engaging in this sort of behavior, much less identify who deserves my vote.
With many of the same themes recurring throughout these advertisements, it seems that these campaign advertisements are effective in identifying a key set of issues to focus on. The main ones I’ve noticed are taxes, healthcare and employment amid the sea of scare tactics and hurting other candidates.
The question now is, are the issues advertised by candidates inline with voters’ priorities? Are we getting the information we want and need from the ads on television? I thought that this topic was appropriate for an audience of investors, because as a group of people that pays close attention to finances I wondered how well candidates address our questions in their campaigns. Does it matter to us that our elected officials advertise a tax policy we agree with? Do we vote based on what we know about the character of each individual? Or do we care that they know and are willing to publicize damaging information about their opponents?
I’m interested in your reactions to these questions, as we wait to see how many people go to the polls today and which candidates win offices. It was once said that education was the foundation of a democracy, and I hope that all voters use their education to navigate in this election full of mixed messages and choose the right person for each job.