Though political candidates always give their political campaign ads, voters in Ohio and across the country might not be paying attention, especially if viewers have strong political beliefs.
A recent study from the School of Communication at The Ohio State University, suggested that political campaign ads are ignored by people who do not support the candidate. Zheng Wang is an assistant professor and the lead author of the study.
Wang said the study involved 15 college students who watched political campaign ads during the 2008 presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain. The students’ physiological responses based on indicators from the skin, facial muscles and heart rate were used to examine their reactions to the political ads, she said.
Those who had strong political beliefs would mentally tune out the political ad of the candidate they do not support, she said, whereas viewers who did not have strong political campaigns reacted similarly to both candidates ads.
Wang said “there have been so many different studies” on the effect of political campaign ads. However this study goes beyond the oversimplified classification of political ads, she said.
Political ads are usually classified as either negative or positive, she said. “It’s much more dynamic and complex though,” she said.
Wang used the example of the Daisy Goldwater ad that Lyndon B Johnson used in the 1964 presidential election used against Barry Goldwater. The ad shows a little girl counting flowers where suddenly the scene freezes and slowly zooms into the little girl’s eye as a countdown is occurring which switches to an explosion from a nuclear bomb.
Since the ad had ended with a nuclear bomb detonating, the ad is considered negative, she said but pointed out that it’s much more complex from the beginning to the end of the ad.
Wang said where other studies focus on the effect of political ads, her study focuses on whether viewers are paying attention.
“In order for there to be effect, there needs to be attention,” she said, “Just because your expose, doesn’t mean you’re paying attention.”
The study shows that even though participants had to watch the political ad they are “mentally tuning out,” she said.
Wang said the effect of political ads is different for each individual because of what the viewer is feeling and thinking at the moment they see the political ads. “It’s not a uniform effect,” he said.
However, most students ignore political ads from both parties especially for the upcoming election between President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney.
“I ignore them,” said Peter Marzalik, a third-year whose double majoring in international studies and Russian. “(Political ads) became so dirty that don’t even provide legitimate research.”
Marzalik said ads are basically 30-second bits of bias information and thinks that voters can find other good sources to get their information.
“I do appreciate the ads that present the candidate views,” he added.
Ashley Cochenour, a first-year in exercise science, agreed that political campaign ads have become more negative. “I think they’re a lot of times where they’re harsh,” she said adding that she usually flips the channel whenever a political campaign ad came on.
Cochemour said political campaign ads are not trust worthy. “You don’t think they’re coming straight from Obama’s or Romney’s mouth for example,” she said, “It’s basically other people speaking for them.”