Negative ads get mixed reviews

Published On: Oct 28 2012 09:48:10 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

In this close presidential race race, negative ads are dominating the airwaves -- especially in swing states like Wisconsin.

But experts are split over the impact negative ads actually have on viewers.

Nationwide, 81 percent of ads supporting President Barack Obama and 88 percent of ads supporting former Gov. Mitt Romney have been negative ads.

Some experts said negative ads actually have a lot of positives for the politicians who run them. Negative ads are easier to remember, they are more effective at mobilizing the base and it's easier to trigger negative emotions than it is to trigger positive ones.

“If you ask anybody, their answer is going to be, ‘I hate seeing negative advertising.’ But the reason we see so much negative advertising is that it works. Candidates aren't going to run ads that don't work," said University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Political Science Assistant Professor Tim Dale.

But some experts said the short-term benefits of negative ads come with a hefty price in the long-run. That's because those advertisements don't just make people feel negatively about specific politicians; it makes them feel negatively about politics in general.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe said that could be dangerous for democracy.

"It makes people hate politics and hate politicians more all the time,” said McCabe. “How can you have a functioning democracy with any public trust for those who are in elected office, when they do so much to demonize each other?"