Negative campaigning affects voters’ decisions

For months, negative political advertisements with foreboding messages have flooded Iowans’ televisions, mailboxes and computers.

In Iowa’s U.S. Senate race alone, around $28 million was spent in television advertisements to try and influence Iowans to vote for either Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, or Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But those negative ads did not appear to keep voters from the polls. In fact, several voters IowaWatch interviewed on Nov. 4 said they were so used to the frequent ads the presence of those ads didn’t even register.

“We have so much negativity in regards to politics,” Marie Raven, 29, of Iowa City, said. “I think the only thing you can do is research candidates on your own and ignore the advertisements.”

Mike Lewis, 44, of Cedar Falls said the ads didn’t sway him to vote for any particular candidate, but they frustrated him. “They did make me want to vote less,” Lewis said, even though he made his way to the Cedar Falls school administration building to vote Tuesday.

Cynthia Worden, 55, of Waterloo, said, “I just don’t believe anything that they say. I’m going to research it and vote for who I think is going to do what I want (them) to do.”

For many, the ads reinforced how they planned to vote. That was the case with Luther Nash of Iowa City, who voted for Braley on Election Day.

“The Joni Ernst advertisement where she called Bruce Braley bad for Iowa farmers without offering any proof was low rent and made me vote away from her ticket,” Nash, 35, said.

Linda Doyle, of Ames, said she based most of her voting decisions on her own Internet research. She read newspapers, visited candidates’ websites and looked at candidates’ past accomplishments before voting for Ernst.

“I think if anything, the negative advertising has done a lot to sway people the other way,” Doyle, 67, said. “If this is how they are going to conduct business, if they’re going to be negative…people get disgusted.”

Jim Elliott was one of those Iowa voters who said he disliked the negative ads so much he skipped past Ernst and Braley on the ballot and voted for independent candidate Rick Stewart.

“Negative ads started at one campaign, then they just got really ugly,” Elliott, 56, of Ames said.

This story was produced by Iowa Center for Public Affairs, a non-profit, online news Website that collaborates with Iowa news organizations to produce explanatory and investigative reporting.