If You’re Swayed by Political Advertisements, You’re Not Thinking Hard Enough

Ellen Savarese

Oh, political advertisements.

The first few of the season always serve as a break from the monotony of car commercials and ads for medicine that will probably kill you before they fix whatever you’re taking them for.

Then they start to get old.

They march on, muddling the airwaves with accusations ranging from confusing to half-credible to just plain wrong. Granted, I’m not a political expert, but I doubt that Senator Mark Udall agreed with President Obama on 99% of all issues ever brought to the Senate floor. I don’t even agree with myself 99% of the time. I also don’t believe that Congressman Cory Gardner has a vendetta against women. Apparently his wife is lovely.

The problem with ads for political candidates, political parties, political agendas, etc., is that they’re targeted at the people who will believe them at face value. This means that, no, Mr. “Card-carrying Republican who has campaigned for Congressman Mike Coffman for months and knows his platform like the back of his hand,” Andrew Romanoff’s ads are not attempting to change your mind. You’re safe.

Political advertisements are designed to sway voters who have very limited knowledge of the topics on which they’re planning to vote. We wonder how we manage, time and time again, to elect such terrible politicians, when, really, there’s no question about it. People are voting with their hearts instead of their heads.

If you’re a registered independent (which, according to recent Gallup polls, 46% of Americans are), or you have no strong opinions on either candidate, and you haven’t taken much time to research the key issues in the upcoming election, those political ads are talking to you.

And you thought that politicians didn’t care about you.

Both parties want you to see a photo of “the other guy” (usually a grainy, derp-y photo with an ugly filter– see: Instagram’s “Hefe”) and think,  “That guy is a moron.” or “That guy hates women.” or “That guy wants to take away my guns.” or “That guy is too extreme to represent me.”

Well of course he is. He wouldn’t be in this game if he wasn’t.

That, unfortunately, is the point. For every finger that a candidate points, three more could logically be pointed back at him. In our current system, voters just can’t trust political ads to tell the truth. At least not all of it.

My suggestion: Do some research. That’s it. Hear something on a political ad that interests you? Don’t take to the ballot box before you take to the Internet. The Internet is filled with folks much more educated than myself who are cross-checking advertisement accusations with voting records (some of my favorites are here, here, and here). Those are the people to become familiar with, as those are the people who, I think, are doing the work of legends.