Editor’s View: Election high road could use some more traffic
If you asked my kids the words of advice I offered to them most when they were younger, they would likely agree on two:
• Make good choices.
• Take the high road.
What if all candidates for elected office - those who say they wish to represent us and work on our behalf - made a conscious effort to lead by those examples?
In the last few weeks, I have received mailings from candidates, or their backers, who chose to attack their opponents instead of touting their own record. Often, because of my work in the media, I know the message is either entirely false or missing some key details to balance the claims made.
Frankly, that’s a turnoff - a real deal breaker.
Why is it that candidates choose to veer toward the low road and take each other down instead of lifting themselves higher? Why choose negativity and smear campaigns over touting their own solid, potentially upstanding record?
It could be because there’s no research that offers firm statistics on the most favorable method of campaigning in voters’ minds.
A new study out of Northwestern University looked at negative and positive campaigning and if leaning one way or the other mattered for a candidate’s outcome. According to researchers at the Kellogg School of Management, the tone does, in fact, matter.
Using data from the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, “The team found that positive ads encouraged more people to show up on Election Day, while negative ads slightly suppressed turnout.”
Some studies, however, have determined that positive and negative messages have had little effect on voter turnout at all.
Other research states that a negative tone has boosted turnout.
And still other research has shown that negative campaigning has decreased turnout.
Since the findings don’t lean solidly either way, candidates and their backers have a decision to make - play nice or play nasty.
It’s a moral decision, an ethical one.
At my house, candidates’ mailings that attack their opponents, rather than detail their reason for running and their vision for the office, land squarely in the trash.
If, however, candidates’ mailings explain in a positive tone why they are the better choice, I’ll read their literature and travel the high road with them.
And I’ll remember their name come Election Day.