Today's Political Ads Use Yesterday's Tactics

Pat Buchanan's 1988 campaign charged, "The Bush administration has invested our tax dollars in pornographic and blasphemous art."

The ads imply that a vote for the opponent is a vote for rampant crime, communist takeover, a toxic environment, and complete moral decay.

Schwartz believes such ads are used because they work. "The attack ads are what stick with us," he said. "For some reason people tend to believe them."

Because of that, attack methods are often recycled.

An ad from the second President Bush's re-election campaign showed John Kerry windsurfing and alleged "Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it."

One of Bush's republican predecessors, Richard Nixon, used the same tactic in a 1972 advertisement targeting George McGovern.

"George McGovern said he was not an advocate of unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam," said the ad. "Now of course, he is."

Garfield thinks the negative ad drive voters away instead of drawing them in. "The effect over time is that people turn off to the political," he said.

"We are living in a media circus," said Schwartz. "It reminds me of walking into times square these days. There's not one billboard, there 100 billboards."

For more on political ads, visit the Museum of the Moving Image's Web site.


Bill Weir filed this report for Good Morning America.

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