As money floods into politics, a growing number of voters are tuning out the TV ads that money buys — literally.
That is according to several surveys, including one commissioned by SAY Media and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.
The polling found, according to the magazine Campaigns and Elections, that one-third of likely voters nationwide say they have not watched TV in the past week and 45 percent say TV is no longer their primary method of watching video.
The survey also found that 40 percent of likely voters own a direct video recorder, or DVR, and 90 percent of those say they regularly skip through those ads. The devices allow users to record programs, watch them on their own schedules and quickly jump over the TV ads.
“You’re looking at the beginning of a trend in terms of how people are consuming TV and it’s led by younger Americans,” pollster Neil Newhouse told the magazine.
In one battleground state, Ohio, 38 percent of voters told pollsters they hadn’t watched live TV in the past week.
The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.46 percent for the national data and 5.39 percent for the Ohio findings.
The survey found that voters and viewers are increasingly intolerant of anything that interrupts their viewing and using experience, such as TV ads.
What voters are probably even more intolerant of is the repetition, negativity and misleading nature of so many of the campaign-season TV ads.
As we are seeing with this election cycle, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010 is dumping millions of new dollars into campaigns at the state and national levels.
Before the high court’s decision of 2010, corporations and other large donors were sometimes reluctant to have their names associated with causes and candidates that might offend their customers.
In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the free speech rights of wealthy donors and candidates were being impinged upon by campaign finance reporting rules.
The ruling now allows them to donate large sums anonymously to PACs defined under the Internal Revenue Service code as “social welfare” organizations.
Those organizations are then free to spend unlimited amounts of money, which is used almost exclusively to buy negative TV advertising.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent heavily in Maine to discredit front-running Senate candidate Angus King in hopes of helping Republican candidate Charlie Summers.
If the survey results are correct that one-third of people are dodging TV ads and that they represent the leading edge of a trend, then big-money donors will have an increasingly difficult time forcing their messages upon prospective voters.
More and more media users will demand control going forward. They will decide when it is time to seek political information and will select the source of that information.
They will demand to be informed, rather than battered with messages they know are likely unfair and untrue.
That, we can all hope, will help diminish the impact of big money on elections and lead to a better-informed electorate.
Sun Journal, Lewiston (Sept. 19)