Negative Campaigning-Does it work?

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?

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs