How Debates Affect Political Advertising

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

STAUNTON, Va -- Campaign advertisements can sway voters one way or the other, especially when news clips are used in ads on television. A political science professor described what can happen if a message is taken out of context.

Laura Van Assendelft, Mary Baldwin College political science professor studies campaign advertisements.

“Your worst nightmare as a politician is to have that sound-bite taken out context, or to have the wrong comment turn into the sound-bite that is the story for that day,” said Van Assendelft.

Some ads use news clips or quotes from the media to push their candidate. Van Assendelft said the media has an authoritative voice that people grow to trust. Even what journalists say can be taken out of context to help a campaign.

“Both sides, the politicians and the media, are very aware of sound-bites and how you need to come up with a catchy phrase to summarize what that speech was or what that event was.”

It is when a journalist's soundbite is taken out of context that a message to voters can be misunderstood.

“Out of context, it can be very misleading.”

She said ads usually target undecided voters.

Aubrey Sparks, an MBC political science student, said most ads she has seen have bias.

“I think they can be effective, but whether they're effective in a way that educates the voter is a whole another thing, and I don't think they're necessarily doing that,” said Sparks.

Technology has changed since the 2008 election. That has led to ads spreading quickly, no matter the message and no matter who it is from.

“The technology has made it very easy for amateurs to get involved in this business,” said Van Assendelft. “There's a lot more of the advertising going on, and a lot of it is negative.”

The political science professor also said both positive and negative ads have bias. Both types of ads can use media or news quotes to twist the message to get across from voters.

She said people can expect to see more ads as we come closer to election day. Often both sides of the political debate try to outdo each other with ads.

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