Mudslinging may be to Blame for Low Voter Turnout

Experts say voter turnout next Tuesday will be among the lowest in recent years. It may hover just above 50%. But even worse, many of those same experts say that low turnout will result because the governor's race isn't inspiring people to take the time to vote. It's not surprising to find out that many people don't like the mudslinging.

Willie's Diner is just one place where hot politics is served up with peas, gravy and cornbread. And all the talk is about mean spirited ads.

Voter Sam Williams says the ads are more than just irritating. The latest round is confusing. "You know, I hate to see all this negativism going like that. Like everybody's playing with words," he said.

That kind of wordplay is difficult to escape. You can find it on TV, radio, even on your home answering machine. It seems like all those ads are more negative this year than ever before, most people say they don't like that.

Voter Paul Bartlett is angry. "It's insulting to the average citizen who with intelligence can vote his mind and vote the issues to have to listen to such negative campaigning," he said.

Carol Deemer says she's had a hard time getting past the negative messages. "I don't plan to vote for Riley, but I'm really put off by the ads about his tax problems," she explained.

That's why party officials are concerned negative ads may keep some voters away from the ballot box. So why do politicians use them? Huntingdon College political science professor Jeremy Lewis says they work, but at a cost.

"It turns off the other campaigns' supporters, it reduces the intensity of their support, and it turns off people registering. It turns off people voting, and if both sides are doing it, it turns off the voters with a mild interest in either side," warned Lewis.

The other worry is that people won't believe any politician anymore, and that appears to be a problem already. As one man at Willie's Diner told us, he wonders if it comes down to who has the best spin doctor.

Voters may have some responsibility, too. Huntingdon's professor tells WSFA the campaigns research how well their ads are going over with the public, and if the negative ads weren't effective, the campaigns would quickly pull them. But ultimately, Lewis says, politicians bear the greatest burden to find a message that's more about their own campaigns, not their opponents' faults.