Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Negative Ads

Dear sweet zombie Jesus, I want this election to be over. I am sick of this: I want Obama to win, but at this point I'll take a McCain win if it means we can all move on with our respective lives.

But, we still have one more week left, which still means one more week of campaign ads. I finally got sick of each side saying that the other was running a negative campaign, and how negative it is, and who did what, so I decided to do a little research on my own. That's right, you guessed it: it's time for another Excel graph!

I had a difficult time coming up with an objective standard of what was a "smear" and what was a "criticism" so I went with a fairly objective, but not very in-depth, analysis of the ads. Additionally, I only used the television ads (Obama, for instance, has over 1000 Obama Youtube ads). The ads were split into four categories: Opposing candidate not mentioned, Ads compare/ criticize opponent, ad only talks about opposition, and ad countering opponent's assertions. Just in case it wasn't clear, the ads in blue are Obama's, red are McCain's.

The final count is: 21 of Obama's ads are just about him, 19 compare/contrast Obama and McCain's ad, 45 are ads just criticizing McCain, and 10 of them are countering ads. Which adds up to little over a fifth of the ads as "positive".

McCain's ads break down as: 14 are just about him, 11 compare/contrast, 16 are just opposing Obama, and 4 are countering opponent's information. Which makes a little over a third of his ads are "positive".

What does this all mean? It means that both candidates are running a mostly negative campaign. And why shouldn't they? Negative ads are the most effective. If people REALLY wanted to stop politicians from running negative ads, they should stop responding to them.

This break down was the best I could do for an objective standard, but I still feel like it is somewhat misleading. For instance, the worst thing Obama said about McCain was that he "lied", he was "out of touch" and "more of the same". The worst thing McCain did was imply Obama was the Anti-Christ and likened him to a pack of wolves. I honestly think that McCain's were more negative, but like I said, how could I come up with an objective standard? A

Final points: Obama has WAY more ads. Like, twice as many ads. I guess his fundraising is doing better. From a communication standpoint, I liked Obama's ads better because I felt they were more creative and better done. There were more citations in Obama's ads as well, pointing out the voting record of McCain and Obama. The running meme seems to be that Obama's "all talk" but it was the McCain ads that never pointed to anything specific. I particularly liked Obama's 2-minute "explanation sessions" that he had.

Obama also had way more Spanish ads too, but I guess Obama's probably better suited to that demographic.

As always, multiple pairs of eyes going over my work is appreciated.