Majority Disapproves of ‘Betray Us’ Ad

Americans across the political spectrum disapproved of the “Betray Us” ad, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

Twenty-three percent (23%) of Americans approve of an ad run in the New York Times “that referred to General Petraeus as General Betray Us.” A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 58% disapproved. Those figures include 12% who Strongly Approve and 42% who Strongly Disapprove.

Self-identified liberals were evenly divided—45% approve and 39% disapprove. However, only 19% of moderate voters approve while 62% disapprove.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of all adults say that “stunts like the MoveOn.org ad” hurt the cause they believe in. Only 12% believe they help the cause while 17% say there is no impact. Twenty-four percent (24%) are not sure. Again, political liberals are divided with 27% saying they help and 32% taking the opposite view. Fifty percent (50%) of moderates and 57% of conservatives say that these sorts of events hurt the cause the group is trying to promote.

It’s surprising, frankly, that the approval was as high as it was given the ridiculously poisoned question framing. “Stunts like the MoveOn.org ad”?

Of course, the popularity of an ad doesn’t necessarily mean much. After all, the rationale for running an advocacy ad is to get attention — which MoveOn got in spades — and to raise awareness for a position that is presumably not already the prevailing view. The more interesting (but harder to answer) question is how much the discussion generated by the ad moved public opinion and in what direction.

Polls consistently show that people hate negative advertising and attacks used as part of the political process. Almost everyone wants the debate to be more civil. Yet there’s no doubt that these tactics are very effective. That’s why they continue to be used.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I think you may be reading too much into the word “stunt”. Any kind of a promotional gimmick is called a stunt. As you point out yourself, that’s what the ad was intended to do; attract attention.

    By way of fleshing out what I’m talking about, let me give you a little story;

    Years ago a station I was working at here in Rochester, decided that they were going to change format from a talk station to a country station. to attract attention to that fact, we spent an entire three day weekend over Labor Day playing one song. Over and over and over again. To make matters worse, we would intro stuff from the normal catalog, from the old format and then on would come the song we were playing. we didn’t row Gladys Knight and the Pips doing Jim Weatherly’s “midnight train to Georgia” and on would come what is possibly the most annoying song and anyone’s catalog “thank god I’m a country boy” by John Denver. We would intro Santana. On would come John Denver. And so on. We would break for the news properly, and we kept up the banter just like always. We played all the ads were they were supposed to be. We just didn’t get off that one song. By the time the actual format change came around at the beginning of the next book, we didn’t have much in the way of listeners, but we sure as hell had everyone talking about us. The cops even showed up thinking that we’d been taken over.

    By definition, that’s a stunt. Nothing negative about it. It is, simply, what it is.

    Now; that there is something negative about the kind of stunt that they did pull, is another matter altogether. I think the American people already have their minds made up, over that one. I’m on record as saying that the democrats were going to go way over the line at some point during this campaign . I just hadn’t figured it would be so soon. But the numbers being reported suggest that I underestimated the anger of the American people over this one.

  2. Triumph says:

    After all, the rationale for running an advocacy ad is to get attention — which MoveOn got in spades — and to raise awareness for a position that is presumably not already the prevailing view.

    Of course you failed to mention the important figure from Rasputin’s poll: 49% weren’t paying attention to the coverage of the ad.

    I would love to have seen how many people claimed to have actually seen the ad. It was pretty mild and likely reflects the Baker-Hamilton consensus on Iraq. The whole “controversy” was created by Republicans to move attention away from Bush’s tragic Iraqi quagmire.

  3. John Q. Public says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

  4. I am not really sure what the poll really means (especially given the 49% number that Triumph notes). I, for example, don’t “approve” of the ad, but also don’t think the brouhaha associated with it is worthy of the time it has taken up. And I do think that the GOP candidates, Rudy in particular, have flogged it to score cheap political points (“cheap” in that it hasn’t cost much to stand around and criticize MoveOn.org in front of Republican audiences).

    And Triumph has a point: even if one detests the ad, it is impossible to argue that it is important enough to warrant all the time that has been spent on it. Indeed, the politicians who are aghast and agog over the ad and the whole rategate (i.e., how much the NYT charged and such) silliness have done far more to share the phrase “Petraeus or Betray Us?” with the general public than MoveOn.org ever did.

  5. James Joyner says:

    it is impossible to argue that it is important enough to warrant all the time that has been spent on it.

    I largely agree on the “cheap political points” angle. Still, to the extent that MoveOn.org is legitimated by mainstream Democratic leaders, it’s certainly fair to criticize it and to try to score points. After all, every nutty utterance of the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons and (the late) Jerry Fallwells gets seized upon in a similar fashion.

    And I’m not sure this has gotten any more attention than, say, the NRA “jackbooted thugs” ad or the laughable “RATS” controversy some time back.

  6. SDM says:

    Heck, I don’t really “approve of” the ad, and I’m a former MoveOn employee and sometime MoveOn donor. Steven Taylor is right – asking a straight up “do you approve” is obviously going to elicit “no,” but I disapprove much more of the GOP’s bad-faith effort to turn a newspaper ad into an ongoing scandal and thus change the subject from what we should actually do about the war.

  7. Uncle Pinky says:

    Guess I’m more interested in the financial angle.

    This particular ad caused enough of a backlash that a rather substantial discount was noted. How long has this discount been in place? Why is MoveOn putting out press releases noting it will now pay the full rate? Public editor Hoyt did note that MoveOn was familiar with the price given; was that for stand-by ads, or will MoveOn pay the going rate for those as well? If this were a standing rate for MoveOn, are other advocacy groups who paid the full freight entitled to a refund?

    While it is true that Rudy got to pop in an add at the discount rate, that was after it had become the subject of probing. The one-time mistake by a lowly ad-worker explanation rings a touch hollow, but MoveOn’s secondary payment (and call for Rudy to pay the same amount) just beg for more investigation.

    I’ve got a feeling that Pinch is going to have to break out the stuffed moose again.

  8. Michael says:

    Still, to the extent that MoveOn.org is legitimated by mainstream Democratic leaders, it’s certainly fair to criticize it and to try to score points.

    Oh yes, by all means continue to criticize the ad. Every time someone mentions “General Betray us”, MoveOn gets their message broadcast for free, and keeps the topic fresh in the public mind. That’s better than a discount from the NY Times.

    It is the same thing I was criticizing James for doing over the DKos diary, even if you disagree with what is being said, repeating what is being said (even to criticize it) gives that point of view free airtime and added legitimacy as a topic of debate.

  9. Michael says:

    The one-time mistake by a lowly ad-worker explanation rings a touch hollow

    Lowly sales staff go for the easy sale, not the most lucrative. If the guy knew he could sell a standby ad, and knew that it would make it in on the day requested, why would he jeopardize the sale by pushing for the higher price? This way it’s a done deal and he gets his commission, and he can move on to the next sale. It’s more profitable for him, if not the NY Times.

    It may not have been a mistake, but it’s easy to believe that it was done at the sole discretion of the sales person.

  10. Bithead says:

    And Triumph has a point: even if one detests the ad, it is impossible to argue that it is important enough to warrant all the time that has been spent on it

    In truth, Stephen, I don’t think they’re spending that much time on the ad on its own merits, but rather because it is emblematic for the attitudes the left has been taking, of late.

    the excuses offered , in a way, are emblematic as well.

  11. Bithead says:

    Oh yes, by all means continue to criticize the ad. Every time someone mentions “General Betray us”, MoveOn gets their message broadcast for free, and keeps the topic fresh in the public mind. That’s better than a discount from the NY Times.

    Givcen the number who disagree with it’s content, AND with it’s being placed, I must ask: Better for WHOM?

  12. Michael says:

    Givcen the number who disagree with it’s content, AND with it’s being placed, I must ask: Better for WHOM?

    Given the number who believe that Petraeus’s report was overly optimistic and tailored to support the President’s policies, plus the _increase_ in support for troop reduction or withdrawal since the ad ran, I would have to say it is better for those seeking to end the war, which is of course MoveOn.org’s position as well.

  13. Michael says:

    Oh, and the Rasmussen poll only counts how many people disapprove of the ad, not how many disagree with the ad.

  14. Bithead says:

    Given the number who believe that Petraeus’s report was overly optimistic and tailored to support the President’s policies, plus the _increase_ in support for troop reduction or withdrawal since the ad ran, I would have to say it is better for those seeking to end the war, which is of course MoveOn.org’s position as well.

    Oh, and the Rasmussen poll only counts how many people disapprove of the ad, not how many disagree with the ad.

    This isn’t all that hard. By what kind of a margin were the last couple of presidential elections won? Given that trend can you think of any reason for a nearly 50/50 split?

  15. Uncle Pinky says:

    Whoa there, Michael.

    Do you really believe that this ad only went through one lowly salesperson? No way in infinite pits of hellfire. It’s a cute enough conceit, but this puppy got some supervisory or management level blessing before it went through. We’re not talking about an ad-sale at some podunk rag, but a specifically targeted political salvo in the “Paper of Record.” To quote Lantos, “I’m not buying it.”

    It may not have been a mistake, but it’s easy to believe that it was done at the sole discretion of the sales person.

    No, Nae, Never. Way above an ad-man’s pay grade, less’n he wanted to get canned from what is still (though I hate to admit it) one of the world’s most prestigious news organizations. This one went up the food chain, and some good reporter will undoubtedly find out the rest in eight to twelve months.

    Then it will be printed in twenty-four months.

  16. Michael says:

    This one went up the food chain, and some good reporter will undoubtedly find out the rest in eight to twelve months.

    And you will undoubtedly come back and admit that you were wrong if that doesn’t happen, right?

    You seem to be very confident with your insight into the workings of the NY Times’ ad sales process, care to tell us what you know that may not be public knowledge?

  17. Uncle Pinky says:

    Sure, Mike. Happy to admit when I’m wrong. View it as a teachable moment for myself. Generally try to do it without being a snarky little schmuck.

    Per ad sales process: I am confident, and no I don’t care to. One need not look further than Hoyt’s semi culpa to have evidence of supervisory level scrutiny. Why the hell should I burn someone when the investigators will do it for me? Make no mistake, this is a burr under a saddle, or a bit of grit in an oyster that will eventually run on page A15 under Crazy Eddie’s latest promo. Being single-sourced on it is not the way I’d like to go, but confidence is high.

    Hope that answers your throw-away line.

  18. Michael says:

    Per ad sales process: I am confident, and no I don’t care to.

    Well then you will forgive me for not putting any trust into the authority of your prediction.

    One need not look further than Hoyt’s semi culpa to have evidence of supervisory level scrutiny. Why the hell should I burn someone when the investigators will do it for me?

    Damage control doesn’t mean conspiracy, this was bad publicity for the Times, so of course they’re going to try and stem the flow _before_ an investigation is required, regardless of whether the investigation would have hurt them or exonerated them.

    Make no mistake, this is a burr under a saddle, or a bit of grit in an oyster that will eventually run on page A15 under Crazy Eddie’s latest promo.

    Again, since I have no confidence in your predictive powers, I won’t be bothering to check page A15 every day. But if you happen to find something there one day, do let me know.

  19. Uncle Pinky says:

    Odd, my response to young Michael seems to have been a victim of server-related violence. I’ll nutshell it for him.

    Heyo, Mike:

    Well then you will forgive me for not putting any trust into the authority of your prediction.

    Absolutely. Frankly, you would be a fool to buy a pig in a poke.

    But if you happen to find something there one day, do let me know.

    You betcha. Whether it enhances or degrades my hypothesis, I’ll cheerfully bring information to light. Be remiss not to.

    Once again, I’m not going to run with a single-sourced story no matter how much confidence I have in him (yes, it’s a guy). If I can box it up and gift-wrap it, I will. If I’m wrong, (it has been known to happen) I’ll be happy to admit it. I would very much like to be wrong on this. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I am.