Negative Campaigning-Does it work?

1 views

You got to go negative

Lee Atwater, Advisor to President George HW Bush

Those words from Atwater came in the summer of 1988 when Bush trailed his Democratic opponent Governor, Mike Dukakis. The Bush campaign developed some famous negative ads in election history with the ‘revolving door prison’ ad being the most remembered.

Closer to home the Conservatives in 1992 fighting a tough election came up with a very clever ad called Labour’s tax bombshell. Like Bush in 88, the Tories were able to turn a losing campaign around and enjoy a come from behind victory.

But, what about here? In 2007, the DUP released this ad attacking the UUP for going into government with Sinn Fein whilst IRA decommissioning had not been completed. The party of course cruised to victory in that election.

Now, I am not arguing that these ads alone where fully responsible for an election victory. But, it is easier for many political strategists to base a campaign around their opponents and why a voter would be mad to elect them. It isn’t hard to imagine that places like East Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone (if another single Unionist candidate is agreed) will be incredibly negative campaigns as many close contests generally are?

So, over to you, do you vote for a policy or candidate, or would a negative leaflet swing you to reconsider your vote?

, , , ,

  • mjh

    David

    Negative ads certainly appear to work.

    But how do they work?

    They probably influence some floating voters. But they run the risk of putting off those who are genuinely thinking carefully about how to vote..

    Possibly their main effect is to get more of the party’s own voters to the polls, and to discourage any of them from floating away.

  • http://whereareyoufrancishutcheson.wordpress.com martyntodd

    Many voters in NI have as their prime objective voting against their “bogeyman” party. They vote against the opposition by voting for its worst enemy.

    In this scenario negative campaigning probably works

    http://whereareyoufrancishutcheson.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/the-vote-against/

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Admittedly, this example is self defeating (as it failed by a country mile) but I thought the New Labour = New Danger campaign was a classic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Labour,_New_Danger

    I fully expect the Tories to come up with a “We told you so” campaign…

  • Granni Trixie

    Well you have only to look at the Naomi Long outcome In EB which shows that POSITIVITY works!
    I say this because APNI canvassers for that election were told to avoid joining in critical rants against the Robinsons on doorsteps ,in a context where people wanted to following explosive TV programmes and news reports about them.

    It was hard to button your lip when people were articulating how angry they were at their votes being taken for granted but we stuck to the strategy to try to inject hope with our ideas as an antidote to helplessness.

    It will be interesting to see if NI21 strategy of criticising other parties without having their own solutions works.

  • Charles_Gould

    Granni Trixie

    In South Antrim, the Alliance literature used to tell people that if you voted Alliance it would keep SF (Martin Meehan ) out.

    (That was the election where Martin Meehan actually thought he had won and made a victory speech but he had declared victory prematurely and David Ford got in, when all votes were counted.!)

  • terence patrick hewett

    Negative campaigning only seems to work when it reinforces the current zeitgeist: when it works against the flow it has a negative impact as the campaigns in Scotland for “no” and the anti-UKIP campaign in England demonstrate.

  • Granni Trixie

    Charles
    I have no knowledge about that campaign so cannot add to what you say though strikes me that the people of Antrim had a lucky break there.

  • mrmrman

    terence

    Completely agree, the doubt in minds of voters has to be there already for the negative ad to work. It also has to be something voters actually care about.

    The Conservative Party’s “New Labour” negative campaign failed because voters didn’t really understand what “New Labour” actually meant (do we even know now?) and therefore didn’t have a strong feeling on it either way. It also in was self defeating as by continually referencing “New Labour” they were actually promoting the Labour party’s attempt to break away from the past.

    On the other hand the tax bomb worked because it focused on something tangible.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I don’t think they do…

    Examples…

    The famous “Don’t vote for any of them it only encourages them” mantra used for non-voters has failed to deter the candidates they despite from standing and winning again.

    Similarly, in Northern Ireland the negative agitprop used by Sinn Féin against the DUP and vice versa has meant many young voters from both communities particular working class voters not voting, because leading parties are attacking their opponents more than being able to show their service to the electorate. This is not entirely these parties fault, nor is the competition from other parties completely immune, but not being negative ideologically does not translate into being positive practically.

  • aquifer

    “Many voters in NI have as their prime objective voting against their “bogeyman” party. They vote against the opposition by voting for its worst enemy.”

    And with PRSTV the bogeymen still get in and run the place.

    If they hate the opposition that much people should vote Alliance.

  • Charles_Gould

    Granni – I completely agree!

  • FuturePhysicist

    ““Many voters in NI have as their prime objective voting against their “bogeyman” party. They vote against the opposition by voting for its worst enemy.”

    And with PRSTV the bogeymen still get in and run the place.

    If they hate the opposition that much people should vote Alliance.”

    Michelle Gildernew, Alasdair McDonnell, Nigel Dodds and Naomi Long were all bogeymen in sectarian head count FPTP elections.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Add Jimmy Spratt with regards to Maskey’s pull out. Long’s stance as a “bogeywoman” is a fairly recent thing.