Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wisconsin voters love negative campaigns

An Associated Press story by Todd Richmond bemoans the fact that Wisconsin campaigns are already getting negative. It's the usual story, with quotes from the usual suspects, including some political "scientists" and goo-goos. Such as:
[Communications professor]Meyer, however, said voters might be so disgusted they already may be tuning out and will avoid the polls altogether. The voters who do show up will have little idea what the candidates want to do if they win.

"It's that classic case of the appearance of impropriety," he said. "It lays the bedrock foundation for skepticism if not downright cynicism on the part of a lot of voters."

That's exactly what the campaigns want, said Jay Heck, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause in Wisconsin.

"They want to drive down turnout and disillusion supporters of the other side. The way you do that is to paint your opponent as a slimeball," Heck said.
Every two years, we hear the lament that negative campaigns will drive voters away from the polls, that they will all be so grossed out they will stay home on election day.

Common Cause and Jay Heck keep doing their part, trying to make every candidate who accepts any contributions look like a crook.

Does anybody remember the presidential election of 2004? It got pretty nasty, as I recall. Something about Swift Boats and Jane Fonda and I forget what-all. It was described as the most negative ever. (Every campaign is described as the worst ever, just like morale in the police department is always at an all-time low. ) Here's a 2002 Badger Herald story that fits the mold:
{Political science professor} Walsh pointed out that negative campaigning may have adverse effects on voters.

“There’s a lot of speculation that negative campaigning increases voter apathy,” Walsh said. “The general argument of political campaigning affecting voter turnout has a lot of merit to it.”

Walsh said negative campaigning often greatly affects younger voters.

“Any time in the late teens and early 20s are a formative time in a person’s political development and adaptations,” Walsh said.
So what happened in 2004? Record turnout. People in Wisconsin must love negative campaigns, because they voted in record numbers. Young people, too. Wisconsin's young voter turnout of 63% was second in the nation. Overall, it was third in the nation, at 75%.

Typical turnout in a non-presidential year in Wisconsin -- the mid-term Congressional elections, which also is when we elect a governor and fill other state offices -- is more like 40%, and will likely be in that range again.

Maybe, if the campaign gets negative enough, we can boost it to 45%. Worth a try.


At 6:55 PM, Blogger proletariat said...

Thanks for you honesty.

And with your posts from the past on the irrelevance of likely voters it all makes sense in a twisted, crooked sort of way.

Maybe if you spent a little less time bashing progressives, Doyle could get some dough from the 25% that are not able to give $1000 or greater donations.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Xoff said...

I'm not sure what you're referring to, but I am the one who thinks that polls which don't screen for likely voters are pretty worthless.

Maybe you have me confused with two other guys.

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Ben Masel said...

Young voter turnout here is quite volatile, so how do you decide how to weight it in a "likely voter" screen?

One hint; It's higher when Feingold's on the ballot. I expect lower turnout than '02, when Ed Thompson boosted the numbers of irregular voters.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger proletariat said...


My bad. You are right. It was the irrelevence of "unlikely voters" that I should have said.

That group is highly unstable which I think Ben was getting at. That you seem to throw out the effect of 'negative campaigning' just demonstrates how out of touch you are. We both know that it keeps voters home, but you'd rather keep them home.

As Ben points out the right canidates and issues bring out these voters. But when the two major political parties see the major issues of the day as stem cell research, voters will stay home or vote for one of the third parties.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger This DJ said...

Voters will vote for one of the third parties?

Nate, if you know anything about politics, and voters. If you took any single domestic political science course you would know how ridiculous that claim is.


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