COLUMBUS, Miss. — The good, the bad and the ugly–it’s the stuff political campaigns are made of, and a subject that Dr. Melissa M. Smith is always happy to talk about.
A visiting assistant professor at Mississippi University for Women, Smith’s research area is political communication, particularly as it relates to political election campaign advertising.
Most people receive their information about a candidate through political advertisements, according to Smith.
“A political ad usually appeals to particular groups such as women, those in the military or geographic areas. Doing so gives the candidate advantages over his or her opponent, who may not agree with the views of that group,” she said. “They also use emotional appeals to give voters a sense of fear, safety and even happiness to persuade voters to vote for them.”
Millions of dollars go into a successful political campaign that will gain candidates the most votes, she explained.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 2012 presidential and congressional elections are estimated to be the most expensive on record. About a half a billion dollars has been spent in the presidential race, and the Center estimates that total to reach about $2.5 billion.
Smith added, “Candidates use political ads to draw voters and/or attack their opponents. The good of political campaigning is its ability to send their messages directly to potential voters. The bad is its ability to influence voters and mislead or distort facts, and the ugly is ads may go too far and end up hurting the candidates.”
Her advice: research candidates, check out the facts and become informed about their political platforms rather than vote based upon opinions formed by ads.
Smith recently guest lectured at Itawamba Community College. She has published and presented articles related to political elections and is co-author of the book “Campaign Finance Reform: A Political Shell Game,” which was published in 2010.