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Study Notes

Negative Campaigning

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Negative Campaigning is simply the type of political advertising, whereby instead of showcasing the good aspects of your candidate, the campaign will highlight the flaws or problems of another candidate. Sometimes these adverts can be subtle, whilst other times they are quite overt.

Negative campaigning will typically focus on a candidate’s political record, or lack of one. To do this there are two different types of adverts, firstly there is an attack ad and secondly a contrast ad. Attack ads will go straight in on the opposing candidate, and highlight their flaws and past, whereas a contrast ad will compare the positives of one candidate against another candidates weaknesses.

The use of negative campaigning is risky and can backfire on a campaign, especially if the advert is deemed to be untrue or makes a completely ridiculous claim.

Negative campaigning can also take the form of push polls whereby a question is asked under the pretence of a poll to influence voters. These questions will normally ask how a person would react if they discovered a candidate did something including beat their partner, was an alcoholic or was a drug user. The first ever push poll came during Nixon’s 1946 campaign for the House of Representatives, in which people were called and told that his opponent was a communist.

There have been some quite famous examples of negative campaigning in the US.

'Daisy' advert - Claims that Johnson's opponent Barry Goldwater could start a nuclear war. It is one of the most controversial adverts ever produced
'3am Phone Call' Strong implications that Obama is untried and lacks experience on the global stage

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