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Negative Political Advertising

Have you ever wondered why many campaign ads are so negative? Do you believe these ads are changing the minds of voters?

In my previous article, I talked about how political parties use the campaign mostly to get their soft supporters to the polls. Soft supporters are the citizens who do have a preference for a particular party, but they can be convinced not to make the trip to the voting station. If the citizen does not make the trip, the party does not get the vote. In essence, the political parties are giving positive encouragement to their soft supporters. Canvassing is the tool to identify and motivate those supporters to vote.

Negative political advertising is designed to convince the soft support of the other party not to make the trip to the voting booth.

Hard support voters are not influenced by negative advertising. They will not change their mind for they believe the negative ads are a lie. They can watch or read hundreds of negative ads against their voting preference yet will still march to the voting station to cast their vote to that preference.

Soft supporters too won’t have their minds changed with negative advertising. But if enough negative advertising gets under their skin, they will start seeing their preferred party or candidate in a less favorable light. They will start to rationalize that their preference is not worth the effort to cast a ballot vote. So they find an excuse not to do their civic duty.

Please understand that the party that runs negative ads does not expect to get any more votes. They expect the other side to get fewer votes. And this tactic works to win elections. Negative advertising, regardless of the political party employing it, is designed to reduce the voter turnout.

I should add that no political advertising works by itself. It is just one play in a long football game. Many things go into the decision of a soft support voter making the trip to the voting station or not. Well-designed negative ads may result in thousands of soft supporters of the other side staying home on election day. But positive political ads and a good ground team may convince many of those supporters to cast a vote.

The battleground of any election campaign is not the minds and hearts of the undecided voters. It is a combination of “our” defense of “our” soft support and “our” attack on “their” soft support and “their” defense of “their” soft support from “our” attack. This is the real game that is being played between competitive political parties during an election campaign.

Should the quality and financing of the political ground teams and negative advertising be writing history by selecting the electoral winners? What does this really say about the state of democracy?

So where does negative advertising fit with elections in Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG)?

Answer: Won't and Can't.

The TDG is my alternative democracy. The electoral districts of the TDG will be about 200 residents. If a certain neighbor has traits that suggest he or she should not be in governance, fellow neighbors will know enough about that person so as not to vote for that person. They don’t need advertising to tell them that. It’s that simple.

Likewise, any advertising directed at credible neighbors will be easily dismissed. Neighbors will see the blatant misrepresentation of the credible neighbors.

Here’s another feature to limit traditional politicking. Given that there will be many first-tier TDG electoral units, it will be expensive to design negative campaign ads to discredit all the credible neighbors who are not the funders’ preference. To be cost effective, the ad should not go much beyond that 200-person electoral unit. It will be hard to contain that advertising to such a small area. Negative advertising just is not practical in the TDG.

Negative advertising will have no impact on choosing who should be in governance in the TDG. Getting rid of this feature of western democracy will help us find better representatives to govern us.

Published on Medium 2021

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