There is certainly a segment of the population that is swayed by TV adds depicting one or the other candidate as either evil or stupid, but as last week's election demonstrated, that segment is far from being a majority. Most Americans, I'm convinced, are like me. They simply ignore such ads. The only ones who pay any attention to them are voters who have already made up their minds how they're going to vote and find reinforcement in exaggerated accusations. In other words, both parties are spending hundreds of millions of dollars preaching to the choir.
But beyond the tragic waste of money, there is another, more devastating, effect of negative advertising. Most voters see it as childish. Both parties are perceived as a bunch of school kids standing around the playground shouting, "I'm rubber, you're glue. 'Bounces off of me and sticks on you. Nyaa-Nyaa-Nyaa." This is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the low approval rating the Congress enjoys.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that this approach is counter-productive. Outside the confines of the Democrat Plantation, the American electorate is not stupid. They recognize that negativity is a confirmation that you have nothing positive to say about yourself – and that your only recourse is to make up lies about your opponent.
The recognition of this voter perception ought to be enough to deter candidates from negative attack advertising. The reason it doesn't is that it's true. The candidates who engage in it really don't have anything positive to say about themselves.
I submit this is one of the major reasons for low voter turnout. When both sides engage in negative attack sides, intelligent people conclude that they are both charlatans and liars. And they stay home from the polls.
I further submit that the political future of America will belong to the party that presents the voters with a positive message. And the only party that has a positive message today is the Tea Party.
And the Republican Party ignores that fact to their own demise.