Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why do political campaigns go negative?

Negative political ads have been compared to all other forms of advertising.

It’s commonly known that as political campaigns become more competitive and closer to the Election Day, politicians generally air negative ads against competitors. A recent study, “The Seeds of Negativity: Knowledge and Money” followed the U.S. House of Representative races in 2000, 2002 and 2004. It concluded that two key factors of negative political campaign advertising are big budgets and media saturation.

According to AdvertisingAge, positive campaigns are typically used when a voter does not know too much about a politician. As voters become more educated in the candidates and issues, the advertising focus switches towards a more negative approach in which competitors’ flaws become the forefront messages. This is done to stand out from the pack. In addition, there was a common link between higher advertising budgets and more negative ads.

An interesting note is that studies prove that positive advertising does not encourage voters to participate but negative messaging does. The theory is that negative ads make topics appear more significant which leads to more voter participation.

Negative political ads have been compared to all other forms of advertising. Comparative advertising is said to be the same as negative political ads in that it points out the flaws of competitive brands. In closing, running a negative campaign whether it be political or commercial does lend itself for the product/service to stand out. However, the manner in which the product/service stands out remains to be determined good or bad.

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