, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 429-454

Elements of Negativity: Volume and Proportion in Exposure to Negative Advertising

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Abstract

Recent studies contend that negative advertising benefits voters. However, these studies only measure the volume of negativity in campaigns, often relying on survey data on voter behavior coupled with estimates of negative ad exposure. Theories of information processing indicate that the proportion of negativity may yield influences spanning a range of judgments related to candidate construction and voting behavior, yielding effects that are different from the influence of sheer volume. Thus, I argue that the proportion of negativity also has an influence, and that it is likely more often to be detrimental. I examine this claim using survey data and conclude that prevailing accounts of the effects of negative advertising campaigns are underspecified and, as a result, potentially overly optimistic.