Munich Personal RePEc Archive

“Negative Political Advertising: It’s All in the Timing”

Davis, Brent (2017): “Negative Political Advertising: It’s All in the Timing”.

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Negative political advertising is a common feature of election campaigns in liberal democracies, whether in the milder form of ‘contrast ads’ or the more aggressive form of ‘attack ads’.

Despite a substantial volume of scholarship, whether such advertisements generate persuasion effects (persuading voters of the deficiencies in the subject of the ads) or backlash effects (diminishing the standing of the candidate/party promulgating the ads) remains a still-unresolved question.

This ‘persuasion or backlash’ question may well reflect the implicit assumption in many of the research designs, and their associated (and consequently mis-specified) models: that causality runs from negative political advertising to vote intention. This article tests that assumption, and finds it wanting.

Testing for endogeneity indicates a bi-directional causality between negative political advertising and vote intention; each causes the other, but with differential temporal profiles.

For electoral scholars (and campaign strategists) this means the decision(s) to engage in negative political advertising is not just if, by whom or how, but also when.

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