Why attack ads work
If you’re sick of all those negative political ads that run on television before Election Day, well, you’re out of luck. Those ads—which many people say they hate—run for a reason: They work.
So says Joan Phillips, a Quinlan professor of marketing who has researched how voters react to negative political ads. But if so many people say they can’t stand the ads, why are they so effective?
It’s the same reason why people are more likely to watch the weather when a hurricane is coming than when it’s sunny and 70 degrees outside, Phillips says.
“We pay more attention to negative information,” she says. “It’s more salient, it scares us, and we’re more likely to remember it.”
To see why negative ads work, Phillips and two colleagues developed a field study in 2004 using real TV advertisements from the George W. Bush and John Kerry presidential election. The researchers asked college students to rate their level of support for the candidates on a seven-point scale, from “definitely Bush” to “definitely Kerry” (with five points in between).
They then showed the students one of four political ads and asked them to re-rate their levels of support. Roughly 14 percent of the students said the attack on their candidate made them support him even more, the researchers found. But an equal percentage of students said the advertisement weakened their support and caused them to move closer to the opponent—the one who ran the negative ad.
Although no one jumped from “definitely Bush” to “definitely Kerry,” some students who were leaning toward one candidate did switch to the other side. And in a tightly contested race, like this year’s presidential election, getting even a few people to change their vote can make all the difference in the world.
“That’s a huge, huge gain for a candidate,” Phillips says.
Negative ads tend to work best when people are passionate about the campaign, such as a presidential election where the stakes are high, Phillips says. The ads, however, become less effective as you move down the political ladder and into smaller races.
“The voter may just discount it,” she says. “They’ll think: ‘I don’t know who to believe, I don’t care, it doesn’t really matter to me.’ ”
So what’s the bottom line?
“We’re not saying positive ads aren’t good,” Phillips says. “It’s just that negative ads are effective.”
Hometown: Grew up in New York, now lives in the Gold Coast
Professor at Quinlan since: 2008
Courses taught: Marketing strategies to undergraduate students (MARK 390) and research methods in marketing to graduate students (MARK 461); also teaches two courses for Quinlan’s Executive MBA program
More Featured Stories
When the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce wanted to conduct market research for its members last fall, it turned to a unique source: graduate marketing students at the Quinlan School of Business.
Earl Peterson and Christian Thomas combined for 22 second-half points to help Loyola knock off Louisiana-Monroe, 65-58, in game one of the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational (CBI) finals. The Ramblers (23-13) can wrap up the championship Wednesday night in Monroe.
Since 2010, Loyola’s Learning Communities have been enhancing students’ First Year Experience by giving them the opportunity to live, connect, and study with others who share their same passions.
Following the example of Pope Francis and commemorating one of the most poignant acts of Jesus’s ministry, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine students washed the feet of the marginalized at the Sole Care Foot Clinic in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.
Robert A. Seal, dean of university libraries at Loyola University Chicago, is the 2015 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. The award recognizes an outstanding member of the library profession who has made a significant contribution to librarianship.
Loyola students studying science or math will get a chance to start their research earlier than ever—thanks to the University’s new First-Year Research Experience, which lets undergraduates work directly with faculty members.
Loyola psychology professor Grayson Holmbeck has been studying children with spina bifida for more than 20 years. In that time, he says: “We’ve learned a lot about what their problems and issues are, what we can do to help them, and more importantly, what they’re capable of.”
Late last fall, when most professors were handing back papers, one Quinlan instructor did something a little different: She gave out money. See how Jenna Drenten’s gesture in honor of her late sister inspired her students.
Quinlan Professor Nenad Jukić was named Loyola’s Faculty Member of the Year on September 14 as part of the University’s Faculty Convocation. This latest award caps off a string of impressive accolades for Jukić, who also was named Quinlan’s Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher of the Year.
Four Loyola graduate students were recently selected for the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Fellowship program and will spend the next year working on healthcare-related projects to help underserved communities in Chicago.
Loyola is one of just 283 universities to have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, a claim that only about 10 percent of the nation’s colleges can make.
Loyola is ranked No. 4 on the Sierra Club’s 2014 list of the greenest colleges in America. The annual rankings are designed to spotlight universities that are deeply committed to environmental responsibility.
Loyola’s Information Commons joins an elite group of peers on Business Insider’s list of the “coolest” college libraries in the country.
The Institute of Environmental Sustainability combines academics and research with agriculture and community living—all in one facility.
The Damen Center was designed from top to bottom with students in mind, making it the center of social life on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.