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Government & Politics
2018 was a big election year in Ohio. Republicans held onto all five statewide executive offices including governor and super majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate. But there were a few bright spots for Democrats, among them the reelection of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and the election of two Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court.With election 2018 over, the focus now shifts to governing. Stay connected with the latest on politics, policies and people making the decisions at all levels affecting your lives.

Election 2018: How the Candidates Are Using Media

Steve Brooks studies political communication and is associate director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the fight to win your vote is intensifying. Candidates are working hard to garner support. Media plays a large role in how they do that. Professor Emeritus Stephen Brooks at the University of Akron studies political communication and talks about how campaigns are using media, particularly social media.

"The benefit of social media is that you can target individuals," says Steve Brooks, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Akron and associate director of the University's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. "What campaigns are doing now is getting profiles of voters and finding out what kinds of messages those voters want and using not only appropriate messages but appropriate platforms to reach them."

Brooks says it's hard to tell which social media platforms are proving most effective, but he says campaigns are making use of the popular ones like Facebook and Twitter.  

They're also still making ads for television, which might seem surprising in light of increased social media use and door-to-door campaigning. "I really think the main reason we're seeing the same amount, if not more, is that the amount of money pouring into campaigns is continuing to increase," Brooks says. "Campaigns can only use so much in producing social media, which is very inexpensive. They can only use so much in get out the vote efforts. So you have money available, so if you have money available you may as well use it."

Web Extra: Brooks says Sen. Sherrod Brown's campaign effectively framed how they wanted voters to perceive his opponent, Jim Renacci, who is not as well known as Brown. Brooks says it's very hard for media to change voters' minds.

And the reason a lot of those ads appear to be negative, is because tracking polls show they work. "I mean, the real problem is us," Brooks says. "We like conflict. We like kind of snarly things. I like to say, especially in mail ads. You get something in the mail of a candidate, his spouse and dog, that doesn’t move you to do much else but maybe smile. If a TV ad is talking about what’s wrong with somebody, we keep our attention on the ad."

This ad for Rich Cordray features Bob, who's battling cancer and relies on medication that would cost him thousands of dollars if he couldn't get insurance because of his pre-existing condition.

Brooks notes that both candidates for governor are producing effective television ads. Among the issues Democrat Rich Cordray is highlighting--healthcare. "It's seen in public opinion polls as the leading issue for most voters," Brooks says.  In one Cordray ad, a supporter decries Mike DeWine's lawsuit to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. "In the business, we call them comparative ads," Brooks says. "Because it starts out saying something bad about the person and then saying, but I’m going to in this case support healthcare and reinforce it and make it better."

While Cordray tackles policy, a DeWine ad focuses on qualifications, chiding Cordray for not testing thousands of rape kits, which DeWine did as attorney general. An ad features a rape victim lauding DeWine for making her feel safe.  

This ad for Republican Mike DeWine features a rape victim who credits DeWine with testing a kit that led to her rapist's capture.

"In this age of the MeToo movement and all of those issues, this is a very effective issue to deal with," Brooks says. "It is being used by DeWine campaign to say that Cordray has difficulty doing things right, misses things, so therefore is not really qualified."

While it's been apparent in debates that there's no love lost between DeWine and Cordray, Brooks says the race has been focused on policy issues and decision making ability rather than on personal attacks, something that's been on the rise around the country. "There have been editorials complimenting at least the candidates for focusing on issues and not focusing on personality," Brooks says. 

Web Extra: Brooks says he's encouraged by his students, who are understanding their need to be responsible media consumers and voters.