Super PAC attack ads versus candidate-backed attack ads

There is an interesting forthcoming study here that concludes that negative ads that are funded by unknown groups are more effective than ads funded by a candidate him or herself. The reason is the “backlash” effect. If a negative ad is backed by Santorum’s personal campaign, then he can get the blame. The same is not true for Santorum’s PAC who might not be so well known.

What does this mean for Super PAC’s though? It’s not clear. On an optimistic reading, Super Pacs can more readily speak the truth (even when it’s really negative) since there won’t be fallout from their comments. However, candidates themselves are probably not holding back on really negative statements that are true because of the backlash effect (not sure about that). In this scenario, more effectiveness is good.

The negative view is that super PACs will allow politics to become more vitriolic and encourage more negative ads because they will be more effective. This will have poisonous social consequences, perhaps by inflaming partisanship.

This study, if it’s right, also means that citizen groups that monitor super pacs and their backers make their attacks less effective, by anchoring them to the candidate that they support.

You can see more here.


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