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Supporters listen to Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum at The Ravine in Bellevue, Wis., on March 24. Some voters in the state are complaining about a barrage of negative ads in advance of Tuesday's primary. (Reuters /Landov)

Wisconsin Voters Face Onslaught Of 'Negative, Negative, Negative' Ads

by NPR Staff
Mar 30, 2012

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With a GOP presidential primary coming up on April 3, Wisconsin voters have found themselves besieged by political ads, reports NPR's David Schaper on Friday's Morning Edition.

Talking to voters in La Crosse, Schaper found that residents have grown weary of the onslaught. It has been massive: The Red, White And Blue Fund — the superPAC supporting Rick Santorum — has so far spent almost a half-million dollars on ads attacking front-runner Mitt Romney.

And Restore Our Future, the superPAC supporting Romney, has spent more than five times that amount — over $2.7 million on mailings, robocalls and, of course, radio and TV ads, Schaper reports.

"You're just hearing .. negative, negative, negative, negative," says Kathy McHenry, a voter trying to eat lunch in Onalaska, Wis.

"I turn my TV off. I won't even listen. They're too annoying," voter Penny Szobody of Medary, Wis., tells Schaper. "There's no reason for all the backbiting. Why don't they tell us something that's true? Why don't they tell us something they're going to do instead of picking each other apart?"

Szobody and other voters tell Schaper they're not influenced by the barrage of negativity.

Joe Heim, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, tells Schaper that people might say they don't listen to the negative ads, but they do have an impact.

"I think they're effective," Heim says. "When people are undecided or they're not real strongly committed toward one candidate or the other, they can be very effective."

But Heim also adds a caveat: Most of the ads in Wisconsin target the Republican base. But the state's primary is an open one, and Democrats and independents can vote, too. The millions of dollars in attack ads, he says, won't likely be as effective on them.

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