Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 747–766 | Cite as

Negative Advertising and the Dynamics of Candidate Support

  • Kevin K. BandaEmail author
  • Jason H. Windett
Original Paper


Scholars have spent a great deal of effort examining the effects of negative advertising on citizens’ perceptions of candidates. Much of this work has used experimental designs and has produced mixed findings supporting one of two competing theories. First, negative ads may harm candidates who sponsor them because citizens tend to dislike negativity. Second, negativity may drive down citizens’ support for the targeted candidate because the attacks give people reasons to reject the target. We argue that the mixed findings produced by prior research may be driven by a disregard for campaign dynamics. We present a critical test of these two theories using data drawn from 80 statewide elections—37 gubernatorial and 43 U.S. Senate contests—from three election years and public opinion polling collected during the last 12 weeks of each campaign. We find that a candidate’s support declines as her advertising strategy includes a higher proportion of negative ads relative to her opponent and that this process unfolds slowly over the course of the campaign.


Negative campaigning Attack advertising Political advertising Campaigns Candidate support 



We would like to thank Tom Carsey, Peter Enns, Nate Kelly, Jamie Monogan, Jeff Harden, John Henderson, Alex Theodoridis, Susanne Martin, Clayton Cleveland, four anonymous reviewers, and Dave Peterson for their helpful comments and suggestions about earlier versions of this research.

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9336_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (157 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 157 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA
  2. 2.Saint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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