Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Ads May Have Turned off Voters

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Ads May Have Turned off Voters

Article excerpt

The weather was pleasant on Nov. 4 -- highs in the upper 50s, no snow, no rain. It was Election Day, and the culmination of something Kansas had not experienced since 1974, competitive races for governor and U.S. Senate. One of the races featured a viable independent, a first for Kansas since 1932.

State, national and international media covered the races extensively. Journalists from Sweden, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Great Britain and Ireland trekked to Topeka to witness the once-in-a-lifetime campaigns. Debates were held, speeches were made, endorsements were proffered proudly (Bob Dole, Sandy Praeger), mistakenly (Bill Snyder), and miserly (Milton Wolf). And money flowed into the Sunflower State like never before. For the two races, more than $35 million was spent by the candidates and outside groups.

This was the "Mother of all Elections" in Kansas. This was democracy at work, the battle of ideas, of candidates, and interests, played out on our TV screens, in our newspapers, on our phones and in our mailboxes. The state's 1.7 million registered voters had the opportunity to have themselves an election, maybe like one they'd never see again.

Their reaction? No thanks.

Turnout was 48.6 percent. Nearly 10,000 fewer voters voted this year than in 2010, a year that did not feature Swedish journalists nor $35 million in spending and in which the races for governor and U.S. Senate were blowouts. An additional 16,000 more voters cast ballots in 2006, when the governor's race was a cakewalk and there wasn't a Senate election.

As Kermit the Frog would say: What the Hey?

One answer might come from political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar, who argued, based on extensive studies, that hostile political campaigns turn off voters. "Negative campaigning only reinforces the nonpartisans disillusionment and convinces them not to participate in a tainted process," they say. …

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