March 19, 2012
Are negative ads bad for America?

An editorial in today’s New York Times (published online yesterday) criticizes a super PAC whose goal it is not to advance a political agenda but to challenge incumbents. It makes some good points but there is one line in its conclusion on super PACs generally that deserves further exploration: “Attack ads, which are their stock in trade, are tainting the political process and turning off many voters.”

While John McCain may agree with this statement, it would nice if that belief could be corroborated with more than just intuition.  As Nick Gillespie of Reason has argued, despite McCain’s objection to the tone, negative ads actually contain more information for voters than positive ads.  And it’s not just a libertarian magazine that sees the benefit.  This week, Paul Begala, Democratic commentator and now adviser to Obama’s super PAC, published a piece in Newsweek praising negative ads because he finds them more engaging.

Screenshot of negative ad against Mitt Romney

Screenshot of negative ad against Santorum

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