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Vandy Researcher Defends Political Attack Ads

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  If you find yourself punching the mute button on your TV remote every time a political attack-ad comes on, a Vanderbilt researcher wants you to know they do serve a useful purpose.

Dr. John Greer, Chairman of the Vanderbilt Political Science Department, delivered a lecture here on the Middle Tennessee State Campus yesterday concerning his attack-ad research.

Greer acknowledged that attack-ads are intentionally exaggerated, but also contends the ads force politicians to be accountable to the public in a way that positive ads can’t. He even likens the ads to one of the nation’s founding documents.

“For those of you who have any doubt about negativity and its role in our political system, go back and read the Declaration of Independence, because that’s a negative document. That was an attack document that the founding fathers wrote attacking King George III – criticizing King George.”

Greer’s research also indicates that the ads are largely wasted on the American electorate, since most voters chose a candidate months ago.

He says that of all the thousands of ads aired to date in the presidential campaign, the only one that’s had any measurable impact on voters has been President’s Obama’s so-called “Big Bird” ad - attacking Mitt Romney for his stance on Public Broadcasting .