The polls we run on our website each day are certainly not scientific. They are simply a way for us to interact with readers and the readers with us. 

The results of these polls don't really mean a whole lot, but they do, in some cases, give a sense of where our readers stand on certain issues.

Take last week's poll for example. We asked: "Do negative political ads sway your vote one way or another before an election?"

The answer — from 91 percent of the 164 respondents — was a resounding no.

Truth be known, I wouldn't have thought you could get 91 percent of any group to agree on anything these days.

I found these results a little bit heartening, despite the small size of the sample. We're still more than two weeks away from the Nov. 6 election. I suspect many of us are already fed up with attack ads.

There's been much research done about why campaigns use so many negative ads. A study released in June from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, published in the journal Marketing Science, found negative advertising "powerful in terms of influencing preferences and voter turnout."

Sadly, the study also found that positive political ads were largely ineffective.

None of the studies I came across clearly explained why negative ads, and not positive, are embraced by campaign managers.

As a community newspaper editor, though, I think I've got a fairly good perspective on the reason.

We and most newspapers track what stories are read each day on our website. We go over those readership numbers at our daily morning meetings.

With only occasional variation, the stories that get the biggest readership numbers involve crimes, fires, guilty pleas, traffic accidents, construction delays, death (obituaries, draw a lot of readers) and certain government actions.

From time to time a more positive story will hit our Top 20. Our Saturday Scholar Athlete of the Week feature stories usually do pretty well. So do stories about new stores and restaurants opening, big lottery jackpots and our weekly fantasy football column.

On a daily basis, though, positive stories don't draw much readership.

I've seen some research that says negative messages get our attention more than positive ones because we tend to remember negative information more readily.

I think that's right. It's always nice to get a compliment or be praised for a job well done. But think about it. Don't you remember the times you've gotten yelled at or criticized or insulted more clearly, as well as the people who said those nasty things?

I write an internal note here each day assessing that morning's edition. I lead it with comments about the good stories and headlines and photos and videos we have done on a given day.

Then I address things we could have and should have done better. (Insert your own joke about that here.)

Our reporters and editors tend to zip right past the notes of praise and focus on the criticism. It's human nature, I guess, to focus on the negative.

But there's a difference between fair criticism and disagreement on issues and the kind of over the top harsh, exaggerated political ads that dominate the airwaves each election cycle.

All those ads do is fuel the fire of the mean, uncivil political environment we live in these days. 

I'd be surprised if they ever changed anyone's mind.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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