Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was written by Jane Partridge, co-president of the League of Women Voters–Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy on Reader Forums.
By Jane Partridge, co-president of the League of Women Voters-Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area
Regardless of how you may feel about the outcome of the 2012 elections, it is hard to find any American who loved being inundated by all those campaign ads on television. Wall-to-wall ads, many run by outside groups with innocuous sounding names and secretive donors, especially blanketed those living in battleground states, and here in the 10th Congressional District.
What’s worse, the vast majority of the TV ads from the outside groups — as much as 97% in some races — were negative. And, according to the Annenberg School of Communications, as much as one-quarter of the ads run by outside groups were just plain false or blatantly misleading.
In spite of this, initial analysis from the Sunlight Foundation “can find no statistically observable relationship between the outside spending and the likelihood of victory” when looking at candidate races as a whole. Additionally, many political strategists have already reported that, because there were so many ads, voters stopped paying attention to them. The less-than-demonstrable impact of outside spending may prove a stark case of diminishing returns given the millions of dollars spent.
What did matter, on the other hand, was factual, meaningful discussion of the issues. Through our Candidate Debates on October 14th and 21st, we at the League of Women Voters of Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area worked hard in this election year to ensure that Lake Forest and Lake Bluff residents had the information they needed to be knowledgeable and engaged voters. We believe an informed electorate is key to a vibrant democracy.
But we remain concerned about the deluge of misleading ads financed by unaccountable sources. We learned that In some cases around the country, television stations rejected or requested changes to some ads from outside groups because they contained false information. We applaud the new trend of stations fact-checking campaign ads and hope it will become the norm.
Even though political pundits and analysts will continue to question whether the $6 billion spent on the 2012 elections was wasted, what we know is that this deluge of money and the flood of campaign ads will not be going away any time soon. The League will work with partners who are committed to ensuring that voters have the information they need to make their own decisions come election time.
Jane Partridge, Co-Pres., League of Women Voters – Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, please visit our website www.lwv-lflb.org