According to Nielsen—the company that spends millions of dollars each year to examine the actual television viewing habits of the American public—98 percent of people’s video time is spent with traditional television. That means on a TV set with their remote control. Not on their laptop, not on their smartphone, not on their tablet—on a television set. This comes from actual measured viewing behavior, not from a poll.

…What we are seeing is that there are three motivating factors for a campaign to spend money on TV advertising—reach, time spent with the medium, and impact of the message. In each case, television is far and away the dominant force. Ignoring the unrivalled power of television to reach the voting audience would be a strategic mistake of epic proportions.

 -Doubt the Power of TV at Your Own Risk, Campaigns & Elections

The League of Women Voters has long been leading the effort to ensure that every American voter has accurate information about candidates when making up his or her mind about whom to vote for.  Providing voters with fact-based, nonpartisan information about our elections has been at the core of the League’s work promoting candidate debates and its other work.

This year, because the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, a record number of campaigns ads are being run by outside groups, sometimes called “third party” and “Super PAC” ads.  Studies show that these ads contain a higher level of both attacks and inaccurate statements than candidate-approved campaign ads.’

The League is concerned that, because of this higher level of misinformation, citizens who in the past have been active in our democracy, might decide not to turnout on Election Day and vote because no candidate has escaped being tainted by negative, misleading ad, and seems worthy of their support.

The Truth in Campaign Advertising project is helping local Leagues and their supporters reach out to their local TV broadcasters and encourage them to fact-check the ads that are running on their stations.  We’re proud of the fact that Leagues are also building community support for TV stations that reject false or inaccurate ads from outside groups or to demand changes before running the ad. 

Television is our nation’s modern day “town hall” where the vast majority of Americans get their information about both products and about their politicians.  With the Presidential debates starting next week we know that millions of Americans will be tuning in and watching.  We hope both candidates will serve the public by sharing more about their vision and the facts than their campaigns (and 3rd party surrogate groups) have through television advertising. 

Consistent with the League’s long-term role in providing fact-based information about campaigns, the Truth in Campaign Advertising project is helping build a new community norm by educating the public about the importance of this truth-in-political advertising effort and supporting those TV stations that exercise their right and responsibility to ensure the campaign ads they run from outside groups are accurate.