Mudslinging: Effects of Negative Political Ad Campaigns

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  • Topic: Voter turnout, Negative campaigning, Political campaign
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  • Published : April 24, 2012
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“Mudslinging”: Effects of Negative Political Ad Campaigns MKT 650 – Dr. Kunz
Jeremy Pflug

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a “mudslinger” as one that uses offensive epithets and invective especially against a political opponent. (Merriam-Webster, 2010) Mudslinging has many sources that all stake claim to being its origin. William Safire states that the word derived from some Ancient Latin advice, “Fortiter calumniari, aliquia adhaerebit,” which is translated into “Throw plenty of dirt and some of it will be sure to stick,” as seen in the “The Barber of Seville” in 1775. (Safire, 1993)

Negative advertisement political campaigns began in the United States all the way back to the time of our founding fathers. In the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Adams was accused of being a monarchist who wanted to move the country to a monarchy under Britain and France, which at the time of the election was a very sensitive subject considering the Revolutionary War was still fresh in the minds of Americans. Thomas Jefferson was accused of being a misogynist and of having an affair with a black slave; which later turned out to be true. (Mark, 2007) Thomas Jefferson eventually won this election over John Adams and Aaron Burr (who became the Vice President to Jefferson after the each has the same amount of Electoral Votes and the House of Representatives chose Jefferson as the President of the United States.)

Negative political advertisements began on the television during the 1964 election, pitting President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Republican Senator Barry M. Goldwater. This advertisement only lasted 60 seconds and was only aired one time but its effectiveness set a precedent for many years to come. The “Daisy Ad” was widely criticized for being over the top and extreme. This 60-second spot featured a little girl picking petals off of a daisy in a field and counting out of sequence just before a voiceover begins a countdown, then follows that by a very strategic image of a nuclear explosion. President Lyndon B. Johnson followed this imagery with these words, "These are the stakes – to make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." (Jones, 2007) This set forth the beginning of advertisements whose sole purpose was to damage an opponent’s view in the public eye. Mark Zuckerberg, states that “In the last hundred years… the way to advertise was to get into the mass media and push your content…” (Holzner, 2009) and candidates have been doing so for many years and with the advancements of technology, candidates can reach people in a one on one setting without every actually meeting that person. Tony Schwartz stated that political parties used to be the means of communication from the candidate to the people. Political would go on campaign trails and bring news of why their candidate was what was best for the United States of America. These days of the past are over and the new political parties are in the forms of ABC, NBC and CBS. (Kaid, 1993) In 2009, The Fox News Channel was the number one rated cable news network for 86 consecutive months and I believe this streak is still intact today. (Guthrie, 2009) Americans rely on television news stations as their main source of information along with the internet. It is almost unheard of a television channel not having their own website that updates the same information that they reveal in their programs and then update then instantly to their viewers. This relay of information brings many new challenges for political leaders and their campaign directors as they seek out inventive ways to attractive consumers… aka the people of the United States. Mudslinging has many effects and yet the underlying question is whether or not these campaign advertisements are doing any real justice for the political campaign trail or are they just damaging both candidates??? What...
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