I think they do.
As appalling as I find them, I think people respond to them whether they like them or not. Take, for instance, Jeff Merkley and Gordan Smith’s ads. Smith, in an add running on TV, criticizes Jeff Merkley for spending money on redecorating offices in Salem.
Even though I dislike these type of ads, I felt that Merkley’s response was poor. I couldn’t find his video on YouTube, but he called Smith’s attacks vague and accused the Senator for running the ad. While I agree, I felt Merkley’s response was… well, weak.
I feel that we as people react negatively to weakness, whether we know it or not. When we critically evaluate situations, we see weakness in discourse as a sign of an inability to lead.