Home > Uncategorized > Reaction 3: Adwatches and soft-money issue advertisments: The need for further discussion

Reaction 3: Adwatches and soft-money issue advertisments: The need for further discussion

            Four separate questions take center stage in this week’s readings:  (1) Can adwatches be successful in curtailing the persuasive effect of misleading political advertisements; (2) Do adwatches do what they are intended to do; (3) Do soft-money sponsored issue advocacy advertisements have a different effect on citizen’s analysis of candidates, and, if so, are they bad for democracy; and (4) does the motivation of the viewer of political advertisements determine the influence of that ad?  While Gina Garramone (1983) offers a good analysis of how motivations influence issue knowledge and impression formation, I find little to critique on this matter; her findings make perfect sense, and I find it difficult to find substantive value in the discussion of motivations.  However, adwatches and soft-money sponsored issue advocacy advertisements, their effects, and what role each plays in a democratic society do warrant further investigation.

Adwatches, according to Tedesco et al, are “the media critiques of candidate ads designed to inform the public about truthful or misleading advertising claims” (p. 542).  In other words, adwatches allow the media to play the role of “watchdog,” informing the public of misleading or blatantly false candidate advertisements during elections.  If done correctly, ad watches should “downplay the effects of the significance (of misleading advertisements) in the eyes of audience” (Jamieson and Cappella, 1997).  While I agree with Jamieson and Cappella that adwatches have the potential to help curtail the effects of political advertisements on citizen evaluations and increase the fairness of elections, I do not believe they are correct in asserting that adwatches are successful.  Rather, I assert that the news media is far from taking their role of watchdog seriously.  I believe that the news media is not living up to their responsibilities for two reasons.  First, news corporations are just that—corporations.  The media’s primary goal in the modern era is to make profits (See Graber, 2009 and Bennett, 2010).  That is, they need viewers, and the way to do that is to “entertain,” not to provide critical analysis.  Thus, although journalists may feel the watchdog role is important, there is little evidence that they have the opportunity or will to conduct adequate analyses of political advertisements.  Second, even if news organizations did take adwatches seriously and followed Jamieson’s recommendations regarding the appropriate way to conduct analyses of political ads, I find it unreasonable to expect that the news media could adequately conduct adwatches on all the misleading ads in a given election year.  The number of advertisements is growing, and television news associations cannot be expected to keep up with them all.  In sum, I agree with Tedesco et al. that “despite calls for journalists to take a more active watchdog role when analyzing political ads, most of adwatches questioned ads but did not provide sufficient analysis” (p. 552).  In short, while television news adwatches could, in theory, increase fairness and honesty in elections, they are, in reality, unsuccessful.   However, I would like to see an study on newspaper adwatches.   Based on a content analysis I conducted for the 2008 election, I believe that newspaper adwatches may be more prevalent, and could be much more successful in their evaluations misleading and false advertisements.

A second area of this week’s readings that I believe deserves further discussion is the question of soft-money sponsored issue advocacy advertisements.  The affect of these ads is significant because issue advocacy ads are not subject to campaign finance reform laws, and have become much more numerous in recent years.  I found the findings of Pfau et al (2002) and Shen and Wu (2002) troubling.  As a proponent of campaign finance reform, I am very concerned with the possible influence of unregulated campaign advertisements, and the results of studies regarding soft-money issue advertisements only adds to my conviction that monitoring soft-money advertisements is necessary to enhance fairness in elections.  The findings of the two articles—issue advocacy advertisements have a great influence on undecided voters, achieve their purpose of swaying voters, and allow candidates to circumvent the backlash effects associated with negative advertisements—leads me to believe that we need to worry about soft-money issue ads.  Under the guise of First Amendment protections, these ads are promoting some speech over others.  To quote Shen and Wu: “Rather than creating more voices as intended in Buckley v. Valeo, unrestricted spending on issue ads could give interest groups, PACs, unions, or even billionaire tycoons louder voices in elections than average citizens” (p. 408).  In my opinion, we should all be concerned with such results, and a discussion of regulating soft-money issue advocacy advertisements should take place and such talk should be taken seriously.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: