MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Many of you have written us to share your, let’s call it, distaste for all of the political ads on television.

They’re nothing new.

So, Cheri from McGregor wanted to know: When did television political advertising start?

Compared to what we see today, the first political TV ads seem rather quaint.

In the very first political ads the questioners were tourists recruited outside Radio City Music Hall.

They asked scripted questions.

It was 1952.

In 1950, 9 percent of households had a TV.

By 1955, it jumped to 65 percent.

“Television and radio made possible to directly speak to people, and I think that transforms campaigns,” David Schulz said.

David Schulz teaches political science at Hamline University.

“It seems hard to believe this now but go back 70, 80 years ago; maybe even 100 years ago, it was considered almost inappropriate for a presidential candidate to actually campaign for office,” Schulz said. “It was considered beneath him to do that.”

But by the 1960’s, TV was the standard.

And in 1964 the first classic negative ad LBJ versus Goldwater.

“The 60s we start to see, see a polarization in American society,” Schulz said. “The fact is our campaigns have always been pretty nasty.”

In 1884, republicans alleged Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate child.

“Mama, mama where’s my pa? Gone to Washington, hahaha,” Schulz said, quoting an old ad.

“Maybe we’re doing a little bit better?” Brown asks.

“A little bit better. A little bit better on that score. Or maybe our morality has changed in talking about whether or not someone has a non-marital child might be a non-issue,” Schulz said.

If you think this year’s ads are more negative, you’re right.

One study found since 2000 negative ads have been rising in each election cycle.

Schultz thinks it’s because of more outside money and a lack of narrative by both major parties.

Heather Brown

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