Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?


Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

I am sure "Negative Campaigning" has been around for a long time going back to the political contests of ancient civilisations. The earliest reference on the Wikipedia page is the 1828 US Presidential election but with the evolution of better media and the time delay reduced to what we have now, live TV and global social media, we seemed to a devolved into a "Race To The Bottom" now as an Irishman and a socialist the last person I want to quote is the "Iron Lady" herself but

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

Okay, here is where I take my high brow fuddy duddy cap off because I love it, it is so entertaining. In my part of the world, in the last few months the main events in the media have been "Brexit" and the upcoming US Presidential Election. Fair enough, I am Irish, my only concerns would be how they affect the international stage not the nitty gritty of everyday life in both countries so when it goes into the weeds of tax rates and infrastructure expenditure, I get a bit bored. I want to see the fireworks of sensationalist statements and how both sides deal with them but I think sometimes the people of the country involved are like that as well.

We had a period from last Thursday when Donald Trump endorsed Paul Ryan, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte up to Tuesday when the Second Amendment remark kicked off basically Donald Trump was "On Message" as the GOP wanted him to be for the General Election. There was a bit of an effort on Hillary's short circuit remark but it gained no traction and Donald Trump did his major economic policy speech on Monday during that period. It seemed very dull to me and even the pundits were brought down a bit. Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker on CNN even tried to inject some drama or friction into it by saying Donald Trump's endorsement of Paul Ryan seemed forced "like a Taliban hostage video" because he read directly from notes so maybe even the locals crave a bit of excitement too. The video of the endorsement is in this link

(1) Some Recent Historical Context:

I was doing some research on google to find some examples.

The 1960 US Presidential TV Debate

I was chatting to couple of other users early in the week about how important it was for Gary Johnson to get 15% in the opinion polls to be allowed on the TV debates for name recognition and maybe having a major impact on the election. Do TV Debates have that much impact? - Well many feel that Richard Nixon sweating and looking shifty in the 1960 debate caused him a lot of harm. I found this short commentary video on the debate.

Attack Slogans:

In 1964 Republican Barry Goldwater ran with the slogan "In Your Heart, You Know He's Right". Barry Goldwater was running a hardcore right wing campaign at the time so the Democrats ran with the counter slogan "In Your Guts, You Know He's Nuts". (See first image of take),_1964

In the 1991 Governorship election of Louisiana, the ex grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan David Duke was running against Democrat Edwin W. Edwards who was suspected of corruption and the unofficial bumper sticker "Better A Lizard Than A Wizard" was born. Edwin W. Edwards won, link to article here

Attack Ads:

In any look at top lists of attack ads, the two ads that make regular appearance are the "Daisy" ad of 1964 for Lyndon B. Johnson against Barry Goldwater and the 1988 "Willie Horton" ad for George H.W. Bush against Mike Dukakis. Astonishingly for such an remembered, iconic ad "Daisy" was only shown once before being taken off because it was deemed too scary.

Some links to lists of Attack Ads,28804,1842516_1842514_1842649,00.html

(2) USA 2016 - The Most Unconventional Election And Candidate Ever

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?
Say what you will about Donald Trump but he has confounded critics and opponents to come through the primaries and still be in the general election. At this stage we don't know whether he will he be able to win the race only the election poll will tell us. People are trying to characterise his campaigns as misteps and gaffes but I think he is too intelligent for that. It is certainly not a very conventional campaign but it is effective. There will be as Donald would say many, many academic studies about this election and they will be able to tell us if he was right or not.

(2a) His Base:

He identified his base and solidified it into a force. If you think about the number of percent he has to pick up to win compared to Hillary Clinton's base, it is quite small because he knows his vote will come out. These controversies, rigged election thoughts , crooked media barbs and ivory towers in Washington comparisons fuel the "Us Vs Them" argument and instils unity among his supporters. His politically incorrect remarks and how they are perceived fuels the feelings of resentment further among his allies.

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

(2b) "I have heard this, many people have said it" or "I have seen this and retweeted it the link":

Even if he has to take it back in the form of "Maybe I was mistaken" or "I never knew it wasn't sourced properly", it still gets out there and nothing ever gets taken off the internet/social media.

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being, you know, shot - Donald Trump, 05/03/2016

(2c) In The News:

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?
Experts have calculated that to win the US presidential election will take 1 billion dollars. Donald Trump ran a slim campaign during the Republican primaries of about 55 million dollars compared to Jeb Bush (155 million) , Ted Cruz (141 million), Marco Rubio (116 million) and Ben Carson (79 million) source . In the general election (in fairness he only started to fundraise seriously in July), he had raised 82 million dollars at end of July.

At the end of June, Hillary Clinton had raised 288 million when other factors are added in (Joint Fundraising committes, Super PACs and DNC/RNC backing) at the end of June according to the Washington Post, Hillary Clinton had 600 million and Donald Trump had 297 million. Hillary Clinton seems to be spending aggressively while Donald Trump is almost strangely holding back. Why do these figures matter well when you look at the report in the New York Times in March 2016 they calculated that Donald Trump has received the equivalent of 2 billion dollars air time in free media (news stories etc) - What must it be now?

If you watch any news analysis coverage in any given hour barring major outside events on CNN (the only US TV News channel I have), Donald Trump will be at least 3/4 to 4/5 of the show with a token Hillary Clinton story thrown in for the appearance of balance and once every two weeks Gary Johnson or Jill Stein are mentioned. I am not knocking Donald Trump's theory, if you offered me the chance to go to a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton rally even though I don't support Donald Trump, I would go to his for the fun. Donald Trump seems to be of the opinion that it is better to be in the news cycle than out of it.

(2d) Nicknames/Slogans/Phrases

I know this tactic well because I have seen it before, it is pure "Word Association". In Northern Ireland in the 1990s post the Good Friday Agreement, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) was the biggest unionist party but the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) wanted to be the major unionist party. Sinn Fein (SF) was the political wing of the Provisional IRA until they split and SF maintained they were purely political. As a play to their base, the DUP always said "Sinn Fein/Provisional IRA" whenever they had to say the SF party name in public to remind people of the links between the two groups, the funny thing is since the DUP became the largest Unionist party and have to share power with SF. The tag "Sinn Fein/Provisional IRA" has now been replaced by "Sinn Fein".

So let's follow the line of thought that Donald Trump wants to bring us on, where does Hillary Clinton suffer the most in the polls, honesty and trustworthiness. "Crooked Hillary" - Hmmm, why would he call her crooked, oh yeah there is that whole email thing and the Clintons have friends in Washington who protect them so they think they are above the law. "Russia please hack Crooked Hillary's emails" - Of course it was a joke, no sense of humour these people but did you actually hear me say, don't do it. Back to Hillary's emails, the RNC want to spend millions on attack ads with bits of the FBI director's press conference and congressional hearing. I got 3 days blanket coverage on her emails with a joke.

"Anyway Washington has her back and the DNC rigged election against Bernie" so who is Washington that is Barrack Obama, well his trade deals and a third Obama term shouldn't sound too good to Bernie Sander's trade supporters. Back to Barrack Obama, well he seems to be fairly clean, what policies can I stick to him "Barrack Hussein Obama, the Founder of ISIS", look at the rise of ISIS and all those horrible terrorist attacks around the world, who is responsible, oh yeah who was Secretary of State for a few years while he was in office "Crooked Hillary", did I mention the "33,000 deleted from her private server, I say there is PROBABLY some beauties there". By the way, "Founder of ISIS" just sarcasm.

Not An Official Campaign Meme

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

The Hillary/Democrats are trying the same thing often inserting these words in close proximity in a point, "Temperamentally Unfit", "Commander In Chief","Nuclear Triad" implying that Donald Trump is mentally unstable and not to be trusted with access to nuclear weapons.

Not An Official Campaign Image

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

Story connected to meme -

(3a) Manipulation Of Events - Deliberate

Hillary Clinton was always going to release her tax returns but used the occasion to shine light on the lack of Donald Trump's tax returns even releasing an attack ad to coincide with her announcement to put pressure on him to release them or give her a chance to spread conspiracy theories if he doesn't. The ad is in this article

For fairness, this image made me laugh:

Not An Official Campaign Image

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

(3b) An Outside Event

Something unexpected happens and how they react themselves or twist how other side reacts. Hopefully nothing happens but some big ISIS attack especially in the US or some non terrorist mass shooting could set the debate on a different track. In absolutely fairness to all campaigns, I sincerely doubt anyone wants something like this so fingers crossed that things stay peaceful.

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?
(4) An October Surprise

The US election is held in November every four years. An "October Surprise" is an event that happens deliberately or an outside event that happens near the end of October of election year close enough to have a dramatic effect on poll. It is a term coined from 1972 when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced that he believed "We have peace at hand in Vietnam" 12 days before the election. Many believed this helped give incumbent Richard Nixon an easy victory over George McGovern.

I don't believe that the Donald Trump campaign have any connections with hackers or the timed dumps of Hillary Clinton's and DNC emails on WikiLeaks but I don't think they would be too upset if a damning email appeared in late October. Or then again it may not be much to anyone except FOX News.

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?


Bizarrely the campaigns almost seem to be on the same page, the Democrats want to make it about Donald Trump to show him as unfit for office while Donald Trump believes that while it is all about him, he can show himself in a good light and still be able to put plenty of negative attention onto Hillary Clinton with her trust/honesty issues. Modern day campaigns seem to have morphed into the following pattern (1) Look for dirt on your opponent (2) Negatively characterise your opponent (3) Positively characterise yourself (4) Talk about the issues.

All sides seem to do it now for better or worse. When the idea for this take was forming in my head, I was going to base it around the thought "Wouldn't it be nice if we just talked about the issues?" but as I said earlier it can be a little bit dull and I don't know if I would be as engrossed with it as I am now if it was just about the issues. It has a feeling of becoming the world's most serious reality TV show. There is no denying that Donald Trump is far better at the dynamics of the process than anyone else. It looks like the support bases are polarising fast and the undecided maybe quite a small percentage but there is still 3 months to go, anything can still happen. At the moment I feel barring a major game changer, it will be very close maybe too close to call until the votes are counted.

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?

Thanks for reading.

This Take has been part of the #BATTLEROYALE contest.

Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?
Add Opinion
5Girl Opinion
11Guy Opinion

Most Helpful Guy

  • Other_Tommy_Wiseau
    It works. The problem is that it just dumbs down everything for everyone. Candidates go from what they will do to improve the country and just show some hypothetical death con 4 shit that makes no sense if the opponent becomes president. It's usually found on manipulative data that's also false information that trickles down to the people. The problem is perpetuated by the fact that, because some case back in the 80s made it legal for stations to broadcast shit like fox news and lie to the people, it also gets pumped into the public as news when it's just a bunch of horse shit

    I don't care of what the other person will do to the country. You're trying to win. If saying the opponent is a racist who rapes babies helps you win, sobeit. But still, what policies will you put in place and what alternative do you actually have? Is it thought out? Because making fun of the opponent is 1 thing, but with the pressure on your back to make this country great, you better have a plan in place and better be a fucking good one cause you talked the talk, now walk the walk

    And before I get heat, it's a general "you", not you in particular, obviously
    Like 2 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • Great opinion - I understood the "You" reference (LoL)

Most Helpful Girl

  • alaysatlorp
    Let me summarize your my take in one sentence: I don't like Donald Trump.
    LikeDisagree 10 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • Could be true.

    • Yes but in order to write good analysis you must be unbiased this is problem with all western media.

    • tabboule

      How could he ever like Trump? He's Irish. If he was white then maybe he'd support Trump, but he's Irish.

      I believe all non-whites, including the Irish, are uniting together in their opposition to Trump.

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • somebodysaycheese
    Yea, I've heard some ish will be revealed it October that you incriminate Hillary and Obama but the majority will ignore it because its the truth and people dont like reality.
    i dont like trump, But the reason people like him is because he seems like the realist candidate. BUT i think he is a snake in the grass just like any other Elite person.
    Like 1 Person
  • godfatherfan
    It depends on the situation and how you use the negativity. Yes, they can have a serious impact. But if the whole campaign is just a hate spewing, insulting and negative campaign with no substance at all, then the gap gets wider and the election turns into a blowout. That is what is happening to Trump. He never should have been in the race to start with. But i am glad he is. It is the best thing that could have happened to the Democrat's. It is our election to lose, and we will not. #Hillary2016
    Like 1 Person
  • Fathoms77
    Honestly, the whole thing gives me a headache. It's like a really bad cartoon that we have to take seriously.

    Trump is a maniac. Clinton is a witch (like, maybe a real one). And these are our two BEST options?

    The entire country just has to do one collective face-palm and start this whole election process OVER.
    Like 2 People
    • Hopefully we won't have negative ads since they don't need help looking bad.

    • You are not the only person feeling that way.

  • Jager66
    I think Trump is hilarious. He uses hyperbole and non PC opinions without filtering them through a 20 person PR team and it makes the all SJW/Feminists/White Knights go bat shit crazy, their heads just explode, it's great.

    I don't care who wins the election and even if I did I can't vote anyway, it's fun to watch though. There is something seriously wrong with an election system that 100% promises to put in power one of 2 people 80% of the population HATES!!
    Like 1 Person
    • It does seem that way sometimes with your second paragraph point.

  • John_Doesnt
    It sure brings out the voters. All it took for democrats to rally together was the threat of imminent annihilation at the hands of an oompa loompa.
    Like 1 Person
    • I can't say anything, the Trump supporters are after me already (LoL)

  • takumii
    Damn, this might trigger some Trump voters. When I say some i mean many. When I mean many, i mean all. Just simple PC things.
    Like 1 Person
    • Thanks for reading - I think 99% of all Donald Trump voters are already triggered, good points though in your opinion.

  • DonaldTrump2016
    Great article. You're a very smart man. One of the smartest on this site in fact. Keep up the good work.
    Like 1 Person
  • Rissyanne
    I got it... you are for Hilliary.
    LikeDisagree 5 People
    • As I said above - Could be true

    • Rissyanne

      As long as you don't say that you are neutral. Because that is far from the truth...

  • Anonymous
    Absolutely but not always. There's a big difference between the DUP political broadcast and Sinn Feinn's.
    But it doesn't matter as people their vote Green or Orange and the other major parties in Northern Ireland the Alliance, SDLP, UUP are seen as parties who do nothing for the people as their candidates are all retired professionals or high minded people that are doctors or solicitors who think that putting up a few posters and giving a few speeches promising the moon will get them elected. Sinn Fein has excellent grass roots and helps their people. The Unionists have turned away from the UUP who just look after rich protestants.
    Anyway negativity and dirty tricks didn't work for Hillary in 2008 against Obama and failed again in 2016 against Trump though the Clinton bag of dirty tricks worked on Bernie. Negative Election Campaigns Work?Do Negative Election Campaigns Work?
  • Anonymous
    I hope Trump's negative election campaign doesn't work
    Like 1 Person
    • Thanks for reading - It will be an interesting few months - The campaign is so long and with so many twists and turns, we probably won't have a clearer picture until closer to election day.

  • Anonymous
    Just like the national media you imply this is unbiased but try to bash trump with half trues, misquotes and spin at the same time covering clinton.
    LikeDisagree 3 People
  • Anonymous
    Fear mongering always works. It get those uneducated who watch a certain channel and listen to a certain bunch of people on an XM Radio station, or for those trailer inhabitants, or even read (Gosh! those people know how to do that) and become brainwashed to thinking that the world is coming to an end
    Like 2 People
    • Thanks for reading - A bit harsh of an assessment but sometimes it feels like it is appealing to the lowest common denominator of campaign messaging.

    • Anonymous

      well I call a spade a spade.

  • Anonymous
    I don't understand why anyone who is not American is so concerned with who gets to be their President.

    Negative campaign can work but it doesn't always work. Take the recent London mayoral elections for example. The voters in London rejected the negative campaigning against Sidiq Khan. It depends on the electorate. The American people are getting a rotten deal with either Trump or Clinton as their President and that's something they're going to have to deal with.
    Like 1 Person
    • An erratic US president affects world stability.

    • Anonymous

      Well Obama and Bush weren't "erratic" were they and I would argue that both men have done more than enough to jeporadize world stability with their foreign policy approaches to the Middle East. I don't think Trump or Clinton are going to change American foreign policy from what it has been since the end of WWII.

    • That could be true - What I am more worried about is the State Department having to release a "This is what he really meant", "He was joking", "Of course he didn't mean that" statement 10 minutes after every presidential news conference.

    • Show All
  • Anonymous
    Trump is a somewhat distinct phenomenon.

    In general negative campaigning is used not to win over moderates, but rather to weaken soft supporters of the other side and suppress their voter turnout. Voter turnout among soft support is a hugely important factor in most elections nowadays. If the republicans all show up for trump but Saunders supporters are too disgusted with Hillary to show up and vote, trump wins.

    Trump goes beyond traditional negative campaigning though and is 'negative' in a way that pushes his 'I'm the only one tough enough to fix things' appeal that his base likes
    Like 1 Person