The Effect of Negative Campaigning on Presidential Elections

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.

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2 Responses to The Effect of Negative Campaigning on Presidential Elections

  1. Hey Timothy, your paper sounds fascinating, I can’t wait to learn more about it. I’m interested to know if you plan to include a comparison of negative campaigning (and its effects on voter attitudes) before and after Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (United States Supreme Court, 2010)? I’m not sure if anyone has tried to measure quantitatively the effect of the Citizens United decision; it could be one, exciting extension of your results.

  2. sanfordt13 says:

    I agree this paper looks really interesting especially with how negative it looks like this election is and is going to get. I was just wondering if you were going to look at any of the historical trends in negative campaigning since it isn’t a new phenomenon in American Politic? Jefferson and Adam’s supporters were certainly saying some pretty nasty things about each other that probably wouldn’t fly today.

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