How Does Fear Drive the Voters?

Fear is a tool that has been used by politicians and organization’s to sway the American people’s votes.  This tool has been used in televised political advertisements in the past and today.  The use of fear in political ads make them very memorable, and those memories can stay in the voter’s minds to Election Day.

     There is a constant reminder in current ads on television about the threats facing our society and how candidates will or will not protect us.  These are effective tools when trying to sway votes to or away from a specific candidate. Television advertisements are especially effective because of their ability to show images that will create an emotional connection.  The primitive nature of fear means that it can be triggered most powerfully not by wordy arguments but by images that make a beeline for the brain’s emotion regions.”

     Here are a couple of examples of fear based television advertisements: 

 This first ad is a current ad that is being ran about Mark Udall that was paid for by Freedom’s Watch.



This next ad is an ad from 1964 called the “Daisy Girl Ad”




           Both of these ads have very strong messages of fear, and are very effective in clearly conveying those messages.  They are both very relevant to the threats facing society in the times that they were created. 


These advertisements prey on the worst fears of many American’s, and are intended to do so.  Fear makes people more likely to go to the polls and vote, which reflects the power of negative emotions in general.”   Both the ad against mark Udall and the “Daisy Girl Ad” discredit a specific candidate’s abilities (based on whether it was for or against the candidate) to protect the country and the American people from the threats that are facing them.  If someone is afraid that their leader will be unable to protect their family from these threats, then that will drive their vote in the voting booth on Election Day. If it is fear that brings them to the polls, then the American people are going to vote for the person that they think is going to protect them. 


     The use of fear as a political tool in televised advertisements is an effective tool that makes the televised ads very memorable and brings the voters to the polls to vote based on the issues as well as candidates portrayed in those ads. 


Filed under Colorado, Media, Negative Campaigning, Uncategorized

3 responses to “How Does Fear Drive the Voters?

  1. Tony Robinson

    Provocative ideas and thanks for the video links to fascinating ads. It is interesting this year that voters who say that fear and desires for security are motivating their vote break for McCain 65%-35%. Voters who cite hope and a desire for transformation as their reason for voting vote Obama by the same margin.

    Why are the more fearful voters lining up Republican? The famous historian Richard Hofstadter wrote a famous essay called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” where he addressed just this strange tendency in American life for the right-wing (especially) to conjure strange fears of exotic aliens taking over our political process (from the Catholics to the Chinese to the Communists to the Muslims). His article is wonderfully thoughtful and I recomment it.

  2. Stephen Noriega

    I believe that fear is also driving this election but it comes from a different source. In the past, it was a righteous, angry fear. This righteous fear, like against terrorists never actually affected people in their homes (except the 9/11 victims) every day. Immigration (how it has faded!) was about some nebulous enemy sneaking around and stealing jobs. The economy is somethnig that affects people every day. It is a fear that materializes at kitchen tables, unemployment offices and mortgage companies. It is not something people can carry on about and then go right to sleep in their safe beds. The economy invades more than our desire to be a superpower or our desire for revenge on Al Qaeda or our indignation of illegal immigration. This time our fear is a visceral, palpable feeling that we might lose something in our lives we can’t just turn to American Idol to escape it. Perhaps real fear has trumped propped up fear in this election as our struggles truly come to our own house.

  3. Matt Knipple

    I guarantee that fear drives some voters. We have all heard about the people that will not vote for Obama because they think he is a Muslim. You cannot tell me that is out of fear whether it is valid or not. Fear is how Bush won his 2nd election. If you can show that you can keep our country safe in a time of turmoil, you should be able to win the election, just like Bush did even if he didn’t really do anything with it. I believe fear is more of a motivating factor for those who are not as well educated in politics and that most people that are can see through it and look at the policies and pick a candidate based on that.

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