Experts say effectiveness of political ads depends on candidate

Updated: Jul. 23, 2018 at 7:42 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Election season is filled with political advertisements. In the recent primary runoff election, some ads were ugly. But do negative ads work?

The answer: It depends on the situation and candidate.

David Mowery, the chairman of Mowery Consulting Group, creates political advertisements for candidates. He said political ads need to connect with people.

"You want an emotional connection with people and something that qualifies you for the office that you're seeking, even if they don't know what that office does," Mowery said.

Mowery said campaigns use attack ads when their poll numbers are not doing well.

"To really move the numbers we have to knock our opponent down," he said.

Nicholas Howard, a political science and public administration assistant professor for Auburn University at Montgomery, said attack ads don't really encourage people to vote.

"They are very muddled at best for their effect on turnout," he said.

But a negative ad on repeat could hurt a candidate, if the candidate does not do a good job connecting with people and showing they are qualified for the job.

"And then you start calling them, whatever, swamp monster bureaucrat, you know I think if you say it enough, it can stick," Mowery said.

A candidate's past mistakes are more effective if they attack something the candidate did while in office. For example, using the office for personal gain or an ethics violation.

Positive ads can work too, especially with some outliers like President Trump endorsing Congresswoman Martha Roby in the recent primary runoff election.

"After that point, the ads themselves became much more effective as a turnout tool for that segment of the Republican base," Howard said.

Both experts said voters can expect the second wave of political ads for the general election to start around Labor Day. The general election is Nov. 6, 2018.

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