Analysis: Love is taking a big risk with ads attacking McAdams

Editor’s note: The following is another in a series of analysis stories based on’s exclusive polling in the close 4thCongressional District contest between Republican incumbent Mia Love and Democratic challenger Ben McAdams.

GOP Rep. Mia Love has started running her first – but not her last – negative TV ad against her Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

But as with all negative advertisements, this is a two-edged sword: Love has relatively high negatives herself, and while negative ads usually do what’s intended – drive down your opponent’s popularity – they can also drive up voters’ negative opinions of yourself.

And if you already have high negatives, that’s not a good thing.

Love can little afford that.

Now, as Love struggles in her job approval ratings, it must be remembered that she still leads McAdams, 49-46 percent in a direct head-to-head, with 5 percent undecided. It is always better to be ahead in a race than behind.

However, going hard negative is a risk for Love.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Lee Davidson does a fine job of reporting on Love’s new ads – and their claims that McAdams raised taxes in his years as the county mayor – the largest government executive job after the governor’s.

In her ad, Love uses an orange bus – McAdams campaign trademark – with riders getting off as claims against McAdams are made.

But pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds that – as far as popularity is concerned – it is McAdams, not Love, who is in the driver’s seat.

In our new 4th District poll, Jones finds:

Love is barely above water, 53 percent of district voters approve of the job she is doing in the U.S. House.

But 44 percent disapprove, and 4 percent don’t know.

McAdams, however, has a really good 66-21 approval rating in the district in his county mayor’s job.

13 percent “don’t know” about McAdams job approval, no doubt many of those coming in the Utah County/South portion of the 4th District, outside of Salt Lake County.

When you break out the demographics of Jones’ new 4th District survey you see the problems that Love has in running negative ads:

Love doesn’t do well with women. Jones finds that among female voters Love is tied, 48 percent approve of her, 48 percent don’t like her.

That is not a good number for Love. Women tend to dislike negative advertising more than do men.

McAdams does well with district women voters, 67-17 percent approve of him.

Men like Love, 57-40 percent; men like McAdams, 64-25 percent.

Here’s a killer for Love:

While she gets a good 80-16 percent approval from Republicans, McAdams does fine among members of his opposing party.

46 percent of Republicans LIKE the job McAdams is doing as county mayor.

Those are folks in your OPPOSING party.

Democrats like McAdams, 89-6 percent.

Only 12 percent of Democrats like Love, 85 percent of Democrats don’t like the job she’s doing.

Political independents approve of McAdams, 72-17 percent.

Love gets approval from only 39 percent of independents; 56 percent don’t like the job she’s doing.

This is reflective of Love’s head-to-head standing with independents, where McAdams leads her, 62-31 percent.

McAdams continues to have problems with “very active” Mormons, where Love outpolls him in job approval, 77-21 percent to his 59-25 percent.

Both are faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And here is the heart of Love’s likability position:

She gets a very good approval rating from those who told Jones they are “very conservative” politically, 86-11 percent.

But McAdams has a “very conservative” approval rating of 42-35 percent.

That’s an “ouch!” for Love.

Now, you can hold a good opinion of someone and still not vote for them; just as you can hold a poor opinion of someone and still vote for them – what’s known as the “hold your nose and vote yes” syndrome.

As Love tries to firm up her Republican/conservative base with negative ads, will those ads push some wavering Republican voters into McAdams’ camp – especially some GOP women?

Love and her campaign manager Dave Hansen will be walking a fine line as she starts her negative ads down the campaign stretch, looking to harm McAdams popularity.

Jones polled 400 adults in the 4th District from Aug. 22-Sept. 6. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.