Political ads are killing our democracy

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An American family sits, their eyes glued to their television screen.

Hillary Clinton failed every single time as Secretary of State. Now, she wants to be president. Don’t let her fail us again. Vote Republican on November 8, 2016.”

“‘ I’d look right in that ugly face of her, she’s a slog. She’s a pig.’ …  Is this the president we want for our daughters? Vote Democrat on November 8, 2016.”

As the next commercial break comes, the whole cycle of attack ads repeat. On and on again. Day and night, every single day. So if the average American watches about 5 hours of television per day, everyday, then they must be exposed to hundreds of political ads that attack a party everyday. What does this constant exposure to an echo chamber of negativity and chaos do to any average American? It makes them cynical, confused, and less likely to vote. In fact, statistics have shown that after attack ads became popular starting in 1964, voter turnout has steadily decreased. Correlation does not imply causation, you say? Studies conducted by Stanford University concluded that voter turnout decreased directly because of television attack ads, citing that attack ads make people cynical and less likely to vote.

 

Those were only statistics accounting from the 1960s to the mid-2000s. With the recent rise in incivility and stronger attack ads in the recent 2016 election, however, voter turnout will likely drop even further. Perhaps, this incivility crisis in television and a constant barrage of negative political ads might do enough damage to even jeopardize our democracy. Already armed with the lack of accurate information, television might even further Americans’ skepticism of their politicians and will vote for whoever drowns the other out in terms of TV advertisements. Will this really be the staple of our democracy?—drowning the other candidate’s voice with sensationalist and populist statements?

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