Why Are There So Many More Negative Campaign Ads? Because They Work

Thursday, May 17, 2012
The 2012 election is shaping up to be ugly, with considerably more negative advertisements than the election four years ago. It’s no surprise that campaigns are relying more on attack ads, for the simple reason that research shows going negative is effective with voters, if it’s done correctly, especially by incumbents.
So far, about 70% of advertising in this year’s presidential contest has been negative, compared to just 9% at this stage in 2008, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.
Meanwhile, professors Kim L. Fridkin and Patrick J. Kenney at Arizona State University found after conducting a survey of voters that negative ads can hurt a candidate—if the mud being slung is “relevant.”
Relevancy is the key. When commercials were deemed both uncivil and irrelevant, voters were more likely to tune out, according to the survey.
The university poll also revealed that certain types of voters are more tolerant of nasty campaign ads, specifically people who are highly partisan, politically dialed in, conservative, male, young, or lacking in political sophistication.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:

Campaigns Shift Negative Ads from Candidate Funding to “Independent” Groups to Avoid Backlash (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 


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