Campaign fatigue burdens voters as Election Day nears
by Matt Brown
Nov 04, 2006 | 340 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

LODI — Drive down Ham Lane in Lodi and try not to see any campaign signs. You can’t.

Watch a half hour of prime time television and try to avoid election advertisements. You can’t.

The first week of November has arrived with all the telltale signs, including wet weather, orange leaves and, of course, campaign ads.

As politicians ramp up their efforts and head full throttle toward Election Day on Tuesday, some voters suffer from the barrage of campaign messages.

It’s called campaign fatigue, and it’s a real phenomenon, according to political scientists. Wesley Hussey, a political science professor at University of California, Los Angeles, said campaign ads help a candidate become known early in the campaign, but can end up turning some voters off if they are too persistent.

“At first, campaign ads help,” Hussey said. “Once 95 percent of the population knows their name, each ad is not adding to their knowledge.”

Many voters say they are sick of seeing ads everywhere they turn, but realize it is part of the democratic process. Brandon Hertzog of Lodi said he is confused by all the ads.

“When you don’t know what the ad is trying to sell you, it seems like propaganda being thrown in your face,” he said Friday as he sat on a bench in downtown Lodi. “‘Vote yes on G for more public safety’ I don’t even know what that means. I really want to rip out all the signs on the lawns.”

University of the Pacific political science professor Bob Benedetti said that the lengthy election cycle in the United States plays a role in campaign fatigue. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, elections take only two to three weeks, he said.

“The length of the campaign and the complexity of the ballot leads voters to get tired,” he said. “People can’t sustain their attention for a long period of time.”

Benedetti said that some voters who are bombarded with campaign messages simply stay home. Another reason people stay away from the polls, he said, is negative advertising.

“Voters get sick of negative ads and don’t vote,” Benedetti said.

A candidate’s base is going to vote no matter what, he said, and it’s the undecided voters that are turned off by negative ads. He said a crafty campaign strategy is to attack an opponent and draw them into a negative campaign to keep away the fringe voters and make it a contest between the bases of both sides.

Stockton campaign consultant Don Parsons said negative campaigning works.

“If it didn’t work, we wouldn’t do it,” said Parsons, who runs Lodi City Council candidate Phil Katzakian’s campaign. “Negative campaigning is a double-edged sword, though, because as you drag your opponent’s campaign down, you drag your own down.”

As the election nears the end, campaigns start reaching for those precious undecided voters. About 50 percent of Californians have already voted absentee, and political analysts say that most voters have already made up their minds by now. So why the surge in campaign ads at the end

“We have a very small window of opportunity left, and we have to maximize it to reach the greatest amount of voters,” said Dale Emmons, a board member of the American Association of Political Consultants. “After Tuesday, there is no tomorrow.”

For some voters who are tired of all the ads, Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

“I’ll be glad when Tuesday gets here,” Lodi resident Sam Pierce said Friday as he walked down School Street. “Then this stupidity will all be over.”

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