Facts Do Matter
Regardless of how you may feel about the outcome of the 2012 elections, it is hard to find any American who loved being inundated by all those campaign ads on television. Wall-to-wall ads, many run by outside groups with innocuous sounding names and secretive donors, especially blanketed those living in battleground states.
What’s worse, the vast majority of the TV ads from the outside groups -- as much as 97% in some races -- were negative. And, according to the Annenberg School of Communications, as much as one-quarter of the ads run by outside groups were just plain false or blatantly misleading.
In spite of this, initial analysis from the Sunlight Foundation “can find no statistically observable relationship between the outside spending and the likelihood of victory” when looking at candidate races as a whole. Additionally, many political strategists have already reported that, because there were so many ads, voters stopped paying attention to them. The less-than-demonstrable impact of outside spending may prove a stark case of diminishing returns given the millions of dollars spent.
What did matter, on the other hand, was factual, meaningful discussion of the issues. Through [candidate forms/voter guide, etc.], we at the League of Women Voters of [LOCALITY] worked hard in this election year to ensure that [LOCALITY RESIDENTS] had the information they needed to be knowledgeable and engaged voters because we believe an informed electorate is key to a vibrant democracy.
Nationwide, the League’s 800 local affiliates and its partners hosted an array of issue discussion and candidate forums/debates to give Americans the chance to hear directly from the candidates about their positions. Our Vote411.org site, and many other respected organizations’ election-related resources, provided millions of voters with accessible, factual, nonpartisan information about their choices.
Voters around the country recognized the importance of this election. On Election Day they took control and waited in long lines to have their votes recorded. And with votes still being counted in some close races, we see just how valuable one vote can be. No amount of outside money can deny us that right.
But we remain concerned about the deluge of misleading ads financed by unaccountable sources. We were pleased to see that, in some communities, local television stations stepped up to the plate for their viewers. In some cases, the stations rejected or requested changes to some ads from outside groups because they contained false information. In many communities, League members met with General Managers and News directors of TV stations to encourage them to do their own fact-checking and demand truth in campaign advertising.
We applaud the new trend of stations fact-checking campaign ads and hope it will become the norm.
Even though political pundits and analysts will continue to question whether the $6 billion spent on the 2012 elections was wasted, what we know is that this deluge of money and the flood of campaign ads will not be going away any time soon. The League will continue to look for partners in every community who are committed to ensuring that voters have the information they need to make their own decisions come election time.
President (or designee) of the League of Women Voters of (LOCALITY)