The percentage of negative ads run during the 2012 election is up dramatically over the previous cycle, with candidates and interest groups choosing to go after opponents far earlier than in 2008.
A new analysis put together by the Wesleyan Media Project shows that 70 percent of ads aired so far in the 2012 presidential race have been negative, meaning they mentioned an opponent by name. In 2008, the percentage of negative ads at this juncture in that campaign was 9.1 percent, the study found.
The acidic change in tone is owed to the rise of interest groups and super PACs in the electoral process, the study concludes. Whereas in 2008, candidate-sponsored ads made up 96.6 percent of total "airings," as of April 22, 2012, that percentage had dropped to 35.8 percent. Campaigns, in short, are outsourcing their airwave operations to allied groups, who in turn are going negative.
Outside groups have so far sponsored nearly 60 percent of total ads aired, at an estimated cost of $77.5 million. Of those, 86 percent have been negative and 14 percent have been positive.
“Such levels of outside group involvement in a presidential primary campaign are unprecedented,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “This is truly historic. To see 60 percent of all ads in the race to-date sponsored by non-candidates is eye-popping,” he added.
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