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ND expert: Attack ads can sway voters

by Susan Guibert Notre Dame News and Information

October 29, 2008


Though voters are forced to wade through the half-truths, distortions and accusations that are flung across party lines every election season, negative political ads can be effective and impact voters, according to Joe Urbany, a University of Notre Dame marketing professor.

“What we know is that negative advertising has been observed to work over time because on the whole it stands out, it gets attention and people tend to process the information more deeply. Even if they don’t like it, it still can have an impact on shifting attitudes overall,” says Urbany, the co-author of a paper titled “Confirmation and the Effects of Positive and Negative Political Advertising.”

In that study, Urbany and his colleagues found that negative ads caused 14 percent of viewers to change their minds about their favored candidate.

“In our studies we find that even though people believe that negative advertising is less influential, that it’s going to be less persuasive, they counter argue it more, they give fewer support arguments to it, yet it has a stronger impact on migrating or changing voter tendency,” Urbany said.

An interview with Joe Urbany can be viewed below.