Why do candidates rely so heavily on a kind of advertising voters say they abhor? Because it works. —Drew Westen, writing in the L.A. Times
Another day in the GOP presidential primary campaign, another attack ad surfaces. This time from the Ron Paul camp, going after Rick Santorum.
Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor calls the ad "brutal," and asks: "It attacks him from the right, labeling him a fake fiscal conservative. Will that sort of flanking move work, particularly in the key upcoming Michigan primary? Well, maybe."
You can see the ad in our video player at left; judge for yourself.
One noted author believes the desired result from the negative ad will be achieved. Drew Westen devoted an entire op-ed Sunday in the Los Angeles Times to state: "Why attack ads? Because they work."
"... Why do candidates rely so heavily on a kind of advertising voters say they abhor? Because it works," Westen writes. "To understand why, you have to consider what we know about how emotions work — and the different ways our conscious and unconscious minds and brains process "negativity" during elections."
Westen concludes: "The reason it's so crucial for politicians to activate both negative and positive emotions is that they are not, as our intuition would suggest, just opposites. Emotions such as anxiety, fear and disgust involve very different neural circuits than, say, happiness or enthusiasm. A candidate's job is to get all those neural circuits firing, both the ones that draw voters in and the ones that push them away from other candidates."
Read the entire opinion here.
So how does the 2011-12 primary season stack up against past campaigns with regard to negative advertising? Reporter Tim Farnam delivers an answer that appeared online Monday on the Washington Post's site:
"If you thought you were living through a particularly nasty presidential primary season, turns out you were right," Farnam writes. "Four years ago, just 6 percent of campaign advertising in the GOP primaries amounted to attacks on other Republicans; in this election, that figure has shot up to more than 50 percent, according to an analysis of advertising trends."
Be sure to check out the graphical charts on the WaPo link.