See a Political Ad? Seek Truth

Political candidates will often skew facts to be favorable.

Yesterday I opened YouTube and clicked on a video, but before it started, a political ad for the midterm elections popped up. 

 Despite being a first-time voter, I skipped the ad because I knew and agreed with the statement. I promised myself to research the ad, but life came up – and I never did. 

During midterms, voting is more important than ever. The issue is that many people don’t know whether the political ads they see have been ethically sourced. People don’t always take the time to research them.   

Political ads may, at times, be helpful; but in many cases, they mislead voters, especially those who don’t do their research. What voters need to remember is that billions of dollars are spent on political ads every year. There has been almost $7 billion spent on media ads in the 2022 midterms alone, according to a CNBC article. 

Kendall Shostak
Kendall Shostak

A Sept. 22 Chicago Sun Times article explained how one of the candidates for Illinois governor is using an ad associating the murder of a Chicago citizen with his belief Democrats are ruining the city. The family of the victim is actively calling for the ads to be pulled. An ultra-conservative radio host wrote the ad. The result is an extremely biased, harmful ad.  

University of St. Thomas Professor Debra Petersen said if the ad has been commissioned by a political campaign, it’s most likely you will be informed of who paid for the ad. But in cases where you don’t see this, check.  It’s important to understand the motives of the organization behind the funding. When the ad lists the funder, be sure to explore whether their views align with the ad they’re funding. 

Knowing how to fact-check an ad is also critical. If you don’t know how, this is how you can teach yourself: 

One, don’t assume the ad is true. Political ads can legally withhold the complete truth. “Ad-makers will pull quotes to fit the narrative they want to create,” Petersen said. 

Two, pay attention to the main points. Look at the visuals and ask yourself, “Do they portray an accurate picture of the candidate?” If they do, do you know enough about the candidate to take them at face value?  

Three, research.  A couple ways to research national ads are to use NPR Fact-Check and A local fact-checking site on KSTP known as the “Truth Test” grades ads on an A-F scale. An ‘A’ means nearly all information is accurate, little exaggeration is present, and little outside context is needed. An ‘F’ means more than half of the information in the ad is inaccurate.   

So, remember, the next time you open YouTube and see an ad for the current election cycle, ask yourself, “Does this seem suspicious?”  

Follow your gut to research.

ThreeSixty Fall News Team students wrote op-ed stories, inspired by the #360YouthVoiceChallenge, which is inspired by youth.