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Published: Saturday, 10/23/2004

Poll shows ads frustrate more than they motivate

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

This week, The Blade will report the results of a local Zogby International poll. Today's story is about the effectiveness of political advertising.

If the point of television advertising is to attract those watching to a certain point of view, the presidential ads now airing in the Toledo media market are badly missing the mark, a poll shows.

Nearly 60 percent of those who have watched the tidal wave of political ads that have engulfed northwest Ohio said they are frustrated more than motivated, a Blade/Zogby poll shows.

Count Anoinette Blair in that group.

"They are the meanest ads I have ever heard. It turns me off on everybody," said Ms. Blair of South Toledo. "I guess I am just disappointed at just how hateful people can be."

Candidates "need to tell us what they are going to do over the four years. They don't need to just sit and slap each other around," she said.

Earllene Brown of Sylvania also finds little to like about the ads.

"I think, basically, they are misleading," she said. "When they first began, I felt more informed, but the closer it's getting to election time, it's just a distraction. It's just basically name-calling, mud-slinging.

"I really want to hear what the person wants to do," she added.

Both Ms. Brown and Ms. Blair participated in the Blade/Zogby poll.

Advertising industry officials have identified the Toledo television market as carrying more political ads than any other in the nation - more than 14,000 since March, and many more since December, when the first presidential ads began to air.

As much as locals dislike the ads, the Blade/Zogby poll demonstrates that, after 10 months, they have penetrated the marketplace to an incredible degree. Of those polled, 97 percent said they had seen or heard them. However, just 1 percent said they were the source they most relied upon in forming a decision for whom to vote.

Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Kerry has benefited extraordinarily from the ads, but the poll shows Mr. Kerry has reaped a somewhat larger harvest. Twenty-five percent of those polled said they are more likely to vote for Mr. Kerry as a result of seeing the ads, while 3 percent said they are less likely to support him. Meanwhile, 14 percent said they are more likely to support Mr. Bush because of the ads, while 6 percent said they are less likely to back the President.

Chad Rex, a state worker who lives in Waterville, said he expects political ads to distort reality, and they usually meet his expectations.

"They really don't make any impression on me because I know that, in the short amount of time they have, they're half-truths and there's much more to the story on both sides," he said. "I don't go through the effort of muting. They're just like any other bad commercial. I just let them take up space. I don't get emotional about it.

"To a large degree, it's kind of insulting to my intelligence," he said, adding that he would much rather see candidates spend their money buying large blocks of broadcast time, perhaps in 30-minute chunks, to lay out their agenda in detail. Mr. Rex said he's a regular consumer of such long-form political programming, having watched all three presidential debates.

"There's a great deal of debate among folks who do ads" about when the many becomes too much, said political adviser James Ruvolo, a former Ohio and Lucas County Democratic Party chairman. "You cannot disarm unilaterally. If you're off the air and your opponent is on, you lose. So while you might doubt their effectiveness, you cannot disarm. You have got to stay on.

"I happen to think that, at some point in the campaign, the partisans like the ads, and you have to keep them on for them," Mr. Ruvolo said. "The folks that are undecided, they start tuning you out and they start paying attention to the news, and that's probably about where we are right now."

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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