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Media and Communications

The Effect of Negative Political Advertising

The Effect of Negative Political Advertising


One stream of my research is about negative advertising in political campaigns. One of the effects is people have tendency to remember bad things more than they remember good experiences so there in an episodic kind of memory but there’s other effects related to attention and related to what we wait when were evaluating an object or a candidate. Do we wait the negative things more than the positive things and actually that study was the foundation and our thinking about one of the papers that I wrote on candidate behavior. What we’d study there was a particular election result which is close elections, the ones that are most competitive are actually more negative than the ones that are less competitive and one of things we discovered is that two important things are moving around when you have close elections. The first thing is the amount of knowledge voters gain about candidates is actually much larger. The second thing is there’s a lot more spending on advertising in these elections so voters have more opportunity to be informed through the ads themselves. This election is unusual in so many dimensions. Interesting to me is from the candidates and the debates in many ways it’s been incredibly negative a lot of just interaction there has been just hugely negative and in the early part of the race the advertising was extremely negative too. What’s interesting is more recently, between the sort of mid-September and mid-October, they’ve shifted to be a little more positive in total compared to say 2012. Historically it’s, it’s a little bit less negative but the thing you have to realize is that every election cycle up to 2012 was more negative than the previous from 2000-2012. It’s just amazing the growth of negativity that you see in these elections. It used to be that you know you’d range between like ten percent and forty percent negativity. In 2012 it was almost ninety percent negative. We’re a little bit further off from that this time it looks like maybe in more than seventy-five percent range so far but that’s a huge difference even from you know the historical but I’m not sure that the advertising is ever going to return to the sort of thirty, forty percent negative advertising that we had in the previous eras.

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