Political ads flood New York airwaves

If you’ve watched NewsChannel 13 recently, chances are you’ve seen more than one political ad.

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It’s crunch time for campaigns across the state, as Nov. 8 is just three weeks away.

If you feel like you’re seeing more ads than usual, there’s a reason for that.

Ronald Seyb, Skidmore College associate professor of political science, says campaigns are looking to motivate voters. He says the ads will not change minds on a candidate — but they could be the difference between a voter staying home, and getting fired up to get out and vote.

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Seyb says political ads seep into our consciousness and the stories they tell feel real. 

“If we remember the ad, we’re probably going to weigh that ad, those images, that argument based on hate or anger, much more heavily than data, for example, numeric data or evidence,” Seyb explained.

Looking at one ad from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign, playing to abortion rights advocates, and one ad from her opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, playing on fears of rising crime in cities — both feature misleading images and statements.

However, stations governed by the Federal Communications Commission, like NewsChannel 13, don’t get to determine whether they run or not.

“You can’t discriminate on the basis of politics, or on the basis of your own assessment, whether the claim is true or not. You can do fact-check reporting, which you do,” Seyb explained.

However, he said political ads affect the mind of even the most discerning voter, using emotional language to disturb and motivate him or her. That’s especially important in New York, he said, as some voters may decide the races are not competitive enough to vote.

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Pointing to an ad for Hochul that claims Zeldin would restrict abortion rights, Seyb said, “It’s using these hot button words like, ‘terrified.’ It’s sort of, ‘You should be terrified that Lee Zeldin, should he become governor, would reverse abortion rights.’ Is that plausible? Absolutely not. These sort of negative ads really preach to the partisan.”