Is 2012 The Nastiest Campaign Ever?

Posted by & filed under 2012 Election, Hyperpartisan, Political Advertising, The IVA Angle

obama attack ad


According to conventional political “wisdom,” independent voters are apathetic, don’t follow political news as closely as partisans, and are less likely to show demonstrable levels of candidate support. At Independent Voters of America, we have our own argument against academia, but if there was ever a year to be apathetic and not follow a campaign, 2012 would have to be it. Why?

The 2012 presidential campaign is the nastiest ever. It’s gotten so bad that even independent in name only Joe Lieberman has spoken up:

“There’s been so much nastiness all around, honestly, both parties,” the Connecticut independent told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday. “The whole campaign has been so negative that I think this is an election where most people are going to go to the poll and vote against somebody — not vote for somebody — and that’s not good for our country… “I wish the president would blow the whistle and really appeal to both parties to cut the negatives, the nastiness, the unfounded charges.”

How did we get here? Simply put, negative campaigning works, and attack ads filled with half truths and character smears are nothing new in American politics. However, the proliferation of outside money in politics and the rise of independent expenditure groups on both sides of the aisle has allowed for unparalleled levels of nastiness in 2012. Campaigns can rely on outside groups to do their dirty work for them – leading the attack without having to claim any direct responsibility — after all, coordination between campaigns and super PACs is illegal!

Yesterday, new attack ads released by both Democrats and Republicans may have brought the 2012 campaign to a new low. Priorities USA, the Democratic pro-Obama super PAC, put out a one minute ad entitled “Understands,” tying Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital business practices to the lost health insurance and cancer death of an Ohio woman. If it seems like a story line this negative had to be completely made up… well, it mostly was.



Not to be outdone by the left, the Romney campaign also released a new attack yesterday. “Right Choice” slams Obama on welfare policy – typical campaign fodder. The only catch? Romney supported the same policy as Governor of Massachusetts. Oh… the hypocrisy! 



These attack ads will soon join their compatriots in heavy rotation across the country, especially in swing states. Examining the overwhelming negativity of the 2012 campaign that ads like these add to, the New York Times recently reported some staggering statistics that are enough to make any independent voter press mute during every commercial break:

Since April, after Mr. Romney became the presumptive nominee, Mr. Obama broadcast negative commercials 118,775 times compared with 56,128 times for positive commercials.

In the same time period, Mr. Romney ran negative spots 51,973 times and positive spots 11,921, according to an analysis from Kantar Media, which tracks political advertising. This does not include the Republican “super PAC” ads that are almost entirely attacks on the president.

What do you think? Is the race between president Obama and Mitt Romney the most negative in your lifetime? Do attack ads have to go this far to “cut through the clutter,” or is there a better way for our politicians to communicate with voters?


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2 Responses

  1. James W. (Jim) Hunt August 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    The sad fact is that negative ads move the needle in the polls. I thoroughly dislike it but the American people pay attention to it and because there is only one way to respond one side or the other fires back. We have become so partisan I see people who have turned partisan that I never thought would have. The only thing that matters to them now is are you an R or are you a D. I am an I but I will never, never, ever vote for this incumbent President.

  2. Robert August 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Reasons I’m voting for Obama

    1. He had the guts to change healthcare. It’s been screwed up a long time, and he was the first president to take action. Romney only states that he will repeal obamacare, and put the control back in the states hands. In other words, go back to being screwed up.

    2. I believe that two gay people should have the same human rights, and American rights as the rest of us. Leaving religion out of it, and my own opinion out of it, in my heart I would want every human treated equal.

    3. For the sake of continuity. If Romney is elected, the first 2 years will be spent trying to repeal every thing Obama did. Wasting our tax money along the way.

    4. I don’t like that Romney’s campaign is built off of  ”Obama’s Failures” and not his own clear vision. It seems to be more blame game than new solutions. Both sides are guilty, but Romney has really attached himself to the repeal obamacare bandwagon that has become the motto for every self respected hillbilly these days.

    5. I tried to let the economy be my only deciding point, but neither party can give a clear and firm message on it. When I compare the differences, and they are very different, I only leave with more questions than answers. I can only look at my own life, and the life of those around me to make this choice.

    Lastly, when I give them the eyeball test, Romney reminds me of a used car salesman. Obama seems like he’s at least selling new cars. I really want to believe that he’s making a difference for the middle class and the poor. If everything he says is true, then it will be good for everyone. I’m an independent voter, and I’m split on most of the major issues. That leaves me with the dilemma of actually using my common sense to vote. I don’t agree with everything on either side, but I refuse to just check the R or D. If I’m gonna vote, then I believe I should make the most informed decision I can. If I’m wrong, then so be it.  I stopped living and making my life decisions based on fear along time ago. When I subtract fear from this decision, Obama is the clear choice. I reserve the right to change my mind if he does actually change into the devil or Hitler.

    Robert W.


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