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The Mean Season: 79 Percent of WA Voters “Skeptical” of Political Ads

May 9, 2012

SEATTLE - It's a mean political season, according to a new survey of Washington state voters, 57 percent of whom say most political television advertisements are attack ads.

Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director, says its survey also finds that 79 percent are skeptical about the claims being made in political ads. Even so, he says, less than a third of Washington voters understand that it's not a violation of federal law to make deceptive claims in a campaign ad.

"Most people assume that if you see something on TV, that there's is some regulatory agency that is monitoring it - and there really isn't. You're really on your own when figuring out what's true and not true."

Programs such as Social Security have been under attack in some political ads - a program nearly all Washington state voters believe is important to people's financial security in retirement, Shadel says, adding that 98 percent said so in the survey.

"Support for Social Security and Medicare as a key part of retirement is strong across all age cohorts, not just those who are on Medicare and Social Security right now."

Voters should be particularly careful about campaign ads which appeal to their emotions, Shadel says, suggesting that they go to independent sources such as FactCheck.org, Flakcheck.org and Politifact.com to check any claims.

He says there will be "ad-watch" sessions at his group's "You've Earned a Say" events this summer - in Spokane on June 7 and Olympia on June 26. Event details are online at earnedasay.org.

Survey details are at aarp.org/wa.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA