You’ve seen the advertisements on television. You probably already know this, but a University of Missouri Communication professor who has studied presidential TV ad campaigns for years confirms: this is the most negative campaign in history.
Professor of Communication Bill Benoit has been studying every presidential television campaign since they began in 1952. He states this is the most negative TV campaign in history. That surprised Benoit, who was surprised by other aspects of this research. Benoit reviewed approximately 140 ads. He found Democrat Barack Obama went negative 68% of the time and that Republican John McCain went negative 62% of the time. Normally, the candidate behind in the polls uses more negative ads than the challenger. McCain has trailed Obama for most of the campaign. Still, it’s Obama that has been the most negative.
The negative slant is significant. Most presidential campaigns go negative about 40% of the time. Negative, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean nasty. Benoit says the public is most turned off by ads that attempt character assassination.
One candidate exceeded the percentage of negative TV ads. It might come as a surprise. Republican Dwight Eisenhower went negative 69% of the time, during that very first presidential race fought over the television airwaves. That wasn’t as negative a campaign, though, because Eisenhower’s challenger didn’t match his negative slant.