Ads Are No More Negative In This Election Than Previous Years


As we approach Election Day, the number of ads continue to increase, but based on recent data from the Wesleyan Media Project they are no more negative than in previous years.

According to their estimates, there is a 75% increase in spending when compared to the same period in the 2008 election and spending in House races has nearly doubled. Even gubernatorial races are producing twice the volume of advertisements compared to similar periods in 2006 elections, with independent groups more than tripling their involvement. Wesleyan’s analysis even delves into the tone of ads and suggests that candidates are taking advantage of subtle changes in format to distance themselves from attack ads by doing off-screen voiceovers and appearing on-screen during promotional or contrasting ads.

We’re hearing a lot of speculation about 2010 being the most negative election to date, and in one respect the complaints are right: there are more negative ads on the air this year in House and Senate races than 2008, but that’s not the whole story,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “There are higher numbers of positive ads too. In other words, although the overall number of ads has increased, we’re actually seeing similar rates of negativity. That said, the sheer number of messages flooding the airwaves and the type of attacks being used are making this campaign feel more negative.”

The Wesleyan Media Project is providing real-time tracking and analysis of all political television advertising.

[The Sunlight Foundation has provided partial funding for the Wesleyan Media Project]