There's a reason why your primetime "Law & Order: SVU" binges are being interrupted with an increasing number of negative political commercials.
As it happens, politicians' campaigns and the special interests that back them are intentionally programming their gloomiest, most attack-y ads during gritty procedural crime dramas that air in primetime, according to new research from The Cook Political Report's Elizabeth Wilner.
Almost 77 percent of political spots that aired during police, mystery and suspense series were negative in tone, followed by 71 percent of entertainment magazine programs.
Political media buyers know that "if you are watching between the hours of 7 and 11, you already are tuning in for some sort of violence or character assassination," Wilner told USA Today in an interview, adding: "You are primed … for drama anyway."
The study focused on 2014 general election ads that aired Jan.1 through June 30 in Senate, House and governor races dubbed toss-ups by the Cook Political Report.
One of those is the contentious battle between Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, for which there's been a majority of positive TV messaging despite months of mutual mud-slinging. The pendulum could soon swing the other direction now that Rauner has gone negative with his full-scale "Broken Promises" assault on Quinn last week.
The No. 1 issue in the Quinn-Rauner small-screen showdown? The state budget and government spending, thanks to an aggressive push by Team Rauner, which is also churning out the lion's share of spots related to taxes, jobs, unions and education. Camp Quinn, meanwhile, owns a plurality of messages devoted to minimum wage, healthcare and Rauner's ongoing nursing home scandal.
Positive ads were on the decline for another hotly contested Illinois race pitting U.S. Rep Brad Schneider, a Democrat, against GOP rival Bob Dold, in Chicago's northern suburbs.