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Political Attack Ads in Montana – Why So Many?

Photo courtesy of mutednarayan/Flickr

We still have more than three months to go before Election Day, and for anyone who owns a television, it’s going to be a long three months.

I’m already sick of campaign ads, and it seems like there’s a new one every day. Also, it seems like most of the ads are negative in tone, which makes them even more annoying.

I’m not an idiot — I know that facts are bent and twisted to vilify opposing candidates and make them look as incompetent, greedy and heartless as possible. But, as much as I would like to believe that my impression of each candidate is not swayed by attack ads, I know there is no way that my subconscious mind has completely blocked out all of the negative nonsense. I don’t care who you are — if you’re told 50 times a day that Denny Rehberg doesn’t care about cancer patients, you’re going to start to question whether Denny Rehberg cares about cancer patients.

Most voters I know feel the same way about negative political ads, and like me, they can’t wait until Wednesday, Nov. 7, when elections have been decided and we can all just chill out for a while.

But if so many people find these ads irritating, why have they become so popular? Positive ads are few and far between — in fact, I can’t think of a single example off the top of my head.

And that, my friends, is precisely why negative ads have become the norm. They’re more memorable, more hard-hitting and more effective. As human beings, we are wired to pay attention to negative information — that’s why we can’t help but turn our heads as we drive by the scene of a car accident.

Campaign managers figure that even if you don’t believe what you hear, attack ads will pique your interest enough to drive you to seek out more information about the candidates, thus influencing independents and people who are on the fence about who will get their vote.

On a positive note, I suppose that means more voters are becoming informed before marking their ballots. Still, I can’t help but wonder why we can’t all just play nice.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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