Thursday, November 1, 2012

US reels under record blitz of angry poll advertisements

"America in Decline" - this title appears on the screen followed by a searing, fast moving montage of images showing churches turned to mosques, Iran with nuclear weapons, petrol prices going through the roof, unemployment, lights going off across the Eastern coast and so on for three minutes. Then appears the message - elect Obama and this is what will happen. That is one of the apocalyptic TV ads aired in the brutal Obama-Romney war for the President of US. Americans are reeling under a never-seen-before onslaught of TV advertising in the ongoing election campaign for president and Congress seats. And it is predominantly fuelled by anger, fear and sadness. Over 9.15 lakh ads have been aired for just the presidential contest between Obama and Romney till 21 October according to the Wesleyan Media Project. This is 44.5% more than ads telecast in the 2008 election. "We've already surpassed the total number of presidential ads aired during the entire 2008 campaign — and we still have two weeks to go before Election Day," said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Project. Two other aspects of this air-war are striking, apart from these staggering numbers. One is that the ads are concentrated on fewer markets than 2008. This means that "a smaller number of Americans have witnessed the onslaught of messages in the race for the White House" according to Fowler. The ads appear to be concentrated in battleground states like Ohio, Florida, Nevada, The other is negativity. Analysis of the high-voltage ad-war in the first three weeks of October shows that anger, fear and sadness were the top three emotions being depicted by both sides of the campaign. Among Romney's ads 86% showed anger, 36% showed fear and 32% showed sadness according to Wesleyan's analysis. Obama's ads were not far behind with 70% showing anger, 30% showing fear and 47% sadness. While the Romney campaign has shifted tracks, with 52% TV ads contrasting him with Obama and 36% only attacking the president, Obama has relied mainly on attacking Romney (73%) with contrasts being shown in just 20% of ads. Pro-Romney attacks have almost universally focused on policy (96%) whereas 44% of the pro-Obama ads were a combination of policy and personally focused critiques. TV ad financing also shows a new development in American electoral politics - the rise of shadowy 'outside' spending. Between October 1 and 21, the Obama camp spent $77.5 million on ads while the Romney camp spent $87.1 million. Obama's spending came mostly from money he had raised himself (94%) but in Romney's case only 44% was raised by him while another massive 44 percent flowed in from supporting groups like super-PACs and other 'welfare' organizations. This has affected the TV ad rates - Obama is getting ads cheaper than Romney. A ranking of the top 15 sponsors of TV ads during the first three weeks of October (with Obama and Romney being counted separate from their parties) has just five Democratic sponsors - the remaining 10 are Republicans. American Crossroads, a super-PAC set up by Bush adviser and Republican ideologue Karl Rove tops the list (after the two candidates) with spending crossing $28.5 million. It is followed by the Democratic group Priorities USA Action with an ad spend of $9.5 million. Taxes, economic disparity and the budget deficit were the top three issues in Obama's ads. Romney appears to be putting all his eggs in the jobs basket - 82% of his ads talked of jobs. Other major issues highlighted by the GOP candidate were the deficit and government spending.

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