The Positive Case For Negative Campaigning

Paperback | February 3, 2015

byKyle Mattes, David P. Redlawsk

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Turn on the television or sign in to social media during election season and chances are you’ll see plenty of negative campaigning. For decades, conventional wisdom has held that Americans hate negativity in political advertising, and some have even argued that its pervasiveness in recent seasons has helped to drive down voter turnout. Arguing against this commonly held view, Kyle Mattes and David P. Redlawsk show not only that some negativity is accepted by voters as part of the political process, but that negative advertising is necessary to convey valuable information that would not otherwise be revealed.

The most comprehensive treatment of negative campaigning to date, The Positive Case for Negative Campaigning uses models, surveys, and experiments to show that much of the seeming dislike of negative campaigning can be explained by the way survey questions have been worded. By failing to distinguish between baseless and credible attacks, surveys fail to capture differences in voters’ receptivity. Voters’ responses, the authors argue, vary greatly and can be better explained by the content and believability of the ads than by whether the ads are negative. Mattes and Redlawsk continue on to establish how voters make use of negative information and why it is necessary. Many voters are politically naïve and unlikely to make inferences about candidates’ positions or traits, so the ability of candidates to go on the attack and focus explicitly on information that would not otherwise be available is crucial to voter education.

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Turn on the television or sign in to social media during election season and chances are you’ll see plenty of negative campaigning. For decades, conventional wisdom has held that Americans hate negativity in political advertising, and some have even argued that its pervasiveness in recent seasons has helped to drive down voter turnout....

Kyle Mattes is assistant professor of political science at the University of Iowa. David P. Redlawsk is professor of political science at the Eagleton Institute’s Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. He is coauthor of several books, including Why Iowa?, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:February 3, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022620216X

ISBN - 13:9780226202167

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     
Chapter 1        Introduction               
Chapter 2        Voters and Negativity, and Why the Media Can’t Help       
with Stefan Mancevski
Chapter 3        What Do Voters Think? Social Desirability and Attitudes about Negativity           
Chapter 4        Examining Voter Response to Real Campaign Ads  
Chapter 5        Modeling Negativity  
Chapter 6        That Ad Said What? The Importance of Ad Credibility       
Chapter 7        How the Possibility of Lies Damages Voter Confidence in Negativity        
Chapter 8        Conclusion     
Appendix A: Details of Video Ads Used in Study 4           
Appendix B: Appendix to Chapter 5
Notes
References     
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The Positive Case for Negative Campaigning is a useful and needed reminder not to slide into the habit of bemoaning negative campaigning. It is a trap that is easy to fall into, especially given media narratives about negative campaigns. But Mattes and Redlawsk examine the topic with fresh eyes, pointing out that it is as easy to lie about oneself in a positive ad as it is to lie about an opponent in a negative ad. At the same time, the book is a useful reminder that voters are more competent than we sometimes may believe.”