I’m going to be writing on the effect of negative campaigning on voter behavior during presidential elections. While this topic has been studied thoroughly in the past, it remains increasingly relevant as presidential candidates have consistently spent increasing amounts of money campaigning, which has been accompanied by an increase in negative advertising. In past elections, I was in high school or younger and I didn’t deliberately pay much attention to presidential elections. Nevertheless, the race permeated into my life and remained in the forefront of my attention as the interminable, unrelenting flow of advertisements and media attention towards candidates bombarded me through several media and social outlets. Much of this campaign coverage was focused on the negative aspect of the candidates’ opponents, and this coverage tended to leave the most lasting impression. Therefore, with record campaign spending by President Obama during the 2008 election, including record spending on and quantity produced of negative advertisements, the issue remains far from unresolved. As we enter full stride into the 2012 presidential election, the rigorous campaigning process has begun, coupled with prominent spending on negative advertisements and other methods of negative campaigning. This paper will analyze the quantitative trends in negative campaigning, including those easily measured such as advertisements. It will also assess the extent to which negative campaigning is utilized in other venues, including campaign speeches and events. Therefore, in addition to empirical data, I will look at primary sources, such as speeches. To determine the extent to which negative campaigning influences voter behavior, I will examine whether there is localized correlation between negative campaigning and public support for a candidate, as determined through polling data. Overall, this topic remains relevant because of the dynamism that defines negative campaigning in presidential election. Because candidates spend varying amounts of money campaigning every election, not only absolutely, but also relative to each other, it is possible to determine whether the evolution of this issue has set a trend in the modern American presidency and whether this will continue to apply to future elections.
2013-2014 Presidential Fellows
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