Negative Campaign Advertisement

Scores of politicians across the globe, especially those who aren’t powerful and popular make use of negative campaigning to divert attention or even tarnish the popularity of their opponents. This type of campaign is usually stimulated by deceit(s) fashioned by one contender or more. This deceit may possibly turn out to be truthful to the electorate, and can make them not to vote for their initial preferred candidates. Negative campaigning crafts a non-conducive condition which alters the ability of the electorate to distinguish truthful information from untruthful one. Furthermore, it is capable of capturing electors’ interest as regards to a number of vital parameters affecting them such as the state of economy, and the unemployment rates.

This type of campaigning may possibly be described as “a form of an ad that is normally utilized by political aspirants during the campaign period to offer facts regarding unconstructive aspects of the opposing contender.” It is broadly categorized into 2. The preliminary one is designed in order to launch a scathing attack on the challenger’s position on matters affecting the electorate. The second one is intended to launch a scathing attack on the challenger’s personality.

Talking of USA, during the year 2008 campaign period, the Republican candidate, John McCain argued that his main competitor, Barrack Obama had no any experience concerning the USA economy, and therefore couldn’t manage to repair it subsequent to the ravaging effects of the recession that had threatened to tear apart our economy completely. This criticism was occasioned by the fact that John’s popularity was significantly low and also due to the fact that he had less experience regarding the economy. He couldn’t even explain the manner in which he could repair it (the USA economy) if elected. However, most Americans and the Media concurred with John’s remarks despite the fact that they were incorrect. Also, during this period, John’s camp and the Press at large considered President Obama an Islam simply because his middle name is “Hussein” in order to woo voters to vote for him (John McCain).

Brief History of Negative Campaigning

 In USA, during the 18th century, door to door campaigning was the main means of spreading information regarding an aspirant or a political party. Additionally, most contenders organized a number of gatherings especially at the city chambers so as to make vital speeches. They (the gatherings) were also aimed at strategizing their campaigns.

The era between the start and the 9th decade of the 20th century was characterized by the usage of image advertisements at the commencement of a campaign period. This stage was aimed at setting up a positive image of a particular aspirant or political party. Subsequently, unconstructive/negative advertisements were utilized at the closing stages so as to launch a scathing attack against a challenger(s) or an opposing political party. But these tactics were discarded at the start of the 9th decade of this century (20th).

The modern-day campaigning tactics on the other hand are structured in such a manner that the unconstructive advertisements are utilized right from the start to the closing stages. The use of media particularly the TV by aspirants to negatively spread political information has escalated to unprecedented levels (Thurber, Candice and Dulio 29). It has been well documented by well known researchers that TV advertising represents sixty to sixty five % of campaign financial resources (Hale, Fox and Farmer 330). The majority of campaign specialists are well versed with the fact that negative TV campaigning is capable of yielding the desired results within the shortest timeframe.

Reasons behind the rise of negative advertising in the political arena

A number of reasons which explain the rise this form of advertising exist. The preliminary reason is the Communication Act that came into law in the year nineteen hundred and thirty four (1934). This Act required the media not to broadcast any advertisement that is/was believed to be untruthful. However, deceptive advertising for political commercials is/was to be advertised. Two, in the year nineteen hundred and seventy six (1976), an alteration of the election campaign Act was made. This amendment was geared towards permitting campaign consultants to spend huge sums of money so as to back a meticulous aspirant. This money was also channeled towards commercial advertisement of the political party and candidates affiliated to it (Freedman, Wood, and Dale 40).

 Three, many campaign consultants discern the fact that any aspirant who desires to be appointed by the public for a particular post must use it so as to amass the required votes. As a consequence, more and more contenders make use of negative advertising during the campaign period as a tool for convincing the voters that they are the best candidates. Four, in USA, in order for a political party to run a negative advertisement on a particular media station, it must obtain a permit from the concerned party. However, this permit is normally utilized liberally in the sense that there are no restrictions imposed as regards to the kind of information that ought to be featured or published in an advertisement.

Impacts negative forms of political communication may have on our system of government and democratic participation

The negative forms of political communication may perhaps facade a number of negative impacts.

One, it is crystal clear that negative forms of political communication sprung at the start of the 9th decade of the 20th century. At that time, they were aimed at offering opposition to the office holders including the president. This state of affairs eventually gave rise to “negativism” (Freedman, Wood, and Dale 21). Two, it is perceived by many political analysts across USA as an acidic manipulator of the democracy. They have argued that due to the fact that it is characterized by aspirants employing various strategies in order to woo electors, the electors have significantly been repelled. As a result, a number of them end up not excising their democratic rights at the ballot, and are totally disillusioned by the leaders who use negative forms of communication so as to win elections (West 802).

Three, in the recent times, it has turned out to be a strong political vehicle. This is attributed to the fact most candidates and their consultants use it so as to manipulate voting patterns. Four, there is a research that was conducted concerning the nineteen hundred and ninety two (1992) United States of America’s presidential and Senate elections. It found that this form of advertisement made many Americans not to trust the political processes. This significantly contributed to lesser voter attendance in the subsequent elections that were held in the year 1996. Five, negative forms of political communications have to an extent contributed to a decline in USA’s system of government. This has been occasioned by the low voter attendance in both the presidential and senate elections, and the electorate’s failure to trust the political system (Nimmo 23).

Analysis of political advertising

Political advertising in the United States of America comprises any spread of information which backs or counters an aspirant for appointment to a public office. Also, it may possibly comprise any spread of information aimed at backing or countering a ballot proposal. Political advertising may take various forms. One, written political advertising entails usage of billboards, pamphlets, fliers and more. Two, it may perhaps engross publishing of information regarding a candidate or a political party in newspapers such as the New York Times, and other types of publications. Three, political advertising may involve the spread of information to the voters via the radio, TV (television), and through an internet website.

 Many political parties and aspirants across the United States tend to use Television to broadcast their commercials due to 2 main reasons. One, the information to be broadcasted is crafted and relayed precisely as desired. Two, it is known that TV is a key communicative connection in between the aspirants and the voters. Most political advertisements normally run for thirty seconds. They are properly designed in order to relay the most important information and capture the listeners/readers/viewers interest.

In USA, there are a number of advertising companies which are mandated to trail and list different political advertisements. One of them is the “Wisconsin Advertising Project.”

The Detrimental and Positive Consequences of Employing Negative Ad Strategies

Various studies that have been conducted regarding negative advertising all over the USA by various researchers have shown that many electors detest these strategies. It has also been established that negative political advertising has slim chances of enabling an aspirant to garner more support from the electorate.

Three, negative advertising strategies have a higher likelihood of causing pessimism amongst the citizens. Four, these strategies can make voters to lack interest in participating in major elections. Five, they (the strategies) have a higher likelihood of crafting uncertainties within the electors’ brain as regards to the capability of the target aspirant (s) to lead the nation or a State without any hitches.

Six, the strategies pose a great peril of crafting empathy to the target aspirant(s). Fifth, the outcomes of an election in which the aspirants utilized negative advertisement strategies have been found to be poorer by scores of well known scholars all over the world. Seven, some of them (the scholars) after having conducted researches concluded that these types of strategies have explicit impacts on the electors, and therefore there is an urgent need for the relevant authorities to amend the communication Act so as to ban it or regulate the content to be aired.

The positive consequences of negative political advertisement include the fact that it may possibly lessen the targeted aspirant appraisal. At the same time, it can swell the supporting aspirant voting intent.

An American political scientist (Goldstein, K.), denies the fact that negative political advertising has can result to unconstructive outcome. According to him, if this advertisement is aired on a regular basis on the television during the campaign period, then the electorate is more likely to gain extensive facts regarding the candidates, and issues affecting them. He also argues that the more the electorate acclimatizes with these facets, the more they are liable to exercise their democratic rights by taking part in an election.

Some scholars have argued that this type of advertising is a bad recipe for United States of America’s democracy. Others have suggested that it has a higher likelihood of restraining electorates’ participation. But in accordance with Kennedy, a great deal of this condemnation by the various scholars and researchers is based on a concept that USA’s electorates are not well educated, and therefore they are more liable to be effortlessly influenced by the ads. He states that “this type of advertising empowers the electorate’s capability to brightly select the best aspirant.”  This is due to the fact most Americans have the intellect of pin-pointing differences as much as matters political are concerned. Kennedy however emphasizes that the campaign consultants ought to devise an ad which isn’t extremely despicable. He argues this is due to the fact that it has a higher chance of bouncing back on a political crusade. Furthermore, he advises political consultants to ensure that they have substantiated the assertions they are intending to run on the television or publish.

Kennedy reiterates that the unconstructive/negative advertisements are aimed at coaching the public. Constructive/positive advertisements on the other hand are geared towards amusing the electorates’ sentiments. According to him, unconstructive/negative advertisement is liable to be factual. In contrast, constructive/positive advertisements are less liable to centre on the policies of the candidate. Kennedy says that most voters pay heed to unconstructive advertisements because it has a huge prospect of unearthing the truth about the background of certain aspirants. He further laments that this form of ad has a long-history as much as the United States of America’s political scheme is concerned. As such, there is no need for its detractors to persist criticizing it.

Kennedy asserts that the pronouncement of United States of America’s independence on 4th of the seventh month of the year 1776 is an unconstructive advertisement. Also, most candidates during the 19th century did not make use of the negative advertisements since at that time; television had not yet been invented (Chaptman).

It has been documented by well known researchers across United States that those candidates who shift from one State to another in bid to raise money so as to fund their political crusades have a huge potential of running numerous ads on the TV and over the radio. Nonetheless, this kind of candidates end up disappointed if the ads don’t produce the most effective results.

 During the November 2nd elections of the year 2004, one of the key policies of the Democratic candidate (John Kerry) was to increase the number of peacekeeping combatants in the war-torn Vietnam .However he was sharply criticized by several human rights watchdogs. According to them, this initiative had a potential of violating human rights and unconstitutional. Many political analysts have suggested the various reasons that made him to lose to the incumbent (George Walker Bush). One of the reasons is that John did not traverse the country to raise funds from well-wishers and other stakeholders. This meant that his camp couldn’t manage to pay for ads to counter ads that were specifically aired and published by the Republican candidate (Chaptman).

The paid negative advertisements that were aired and published by the Republican camp made the electorate to turn out to be further acquainted with political matters, and as a result, they ended-up voting for Bush in spite of many criticisms that were leveled against him by critics such as the unwarranted invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq (Chaptman).

The suggested negative effects of exposure to negative ad

Scores of voters, scholars, and researchers have suggested several negative effects of exposure to negative ads.

One, it may possibly introduce thoughts of suspicion amongst the electorate. Two, negative ads were extensively used throughout the year two thousand and four (2004) elections that pitted George Bush, John Kerry and others. As a consequence, they crafted an element of squat/low self-value amongst the electorate. Three, some researchers have found that this form of advertisement has a higher likelihood of changing the electorates’ mind-set as regards to engagement in a number of democratic processes. These include referendums and Senate elections.

 Four, owing to the fact that the negative advertisements are usually broadcasted during the campaign period, they create monotony. As a consequence, majority of the electorate protest against the real intention of this form of advertising. Five, some of them (the scholars) have argued that negative advertising is characterized by dishonesty. Also, they have argued that it is unjust since it is intended to tarnish the political supremacy of certain aspirants.

Effects of Exposure to negative advertising on voter turnout

There are 2 main parameters which explain the reason as to why most voters in USA take part in a voting exercise such as the election of the President and State representatives. One of them is the exposure to political advertising. This exposure can increase or lessen their curiosity as far as a particular voting process is concerned. Another one is the participation in political matters prior to the ballot day. It has been confirmed by well known researchers that the two determiners may possibly impact the electorates’ reaction sensitivity to negative advertisements. Furthermore, if the two determiners set off at a lower momentum, then negative advertisements are implausible to be effectual. This is due to the fact that the electorate may perhaps find the negative advertisements to be upsetting. Also, these advertisements may possibly fashion unconstructive sentiments towards the political leaders.

The two determiners may possibly swell to unprecedented intensities. Furthermore, they have a higher likelihood of turning out to be further engrossed in the voting process. These have an impact of making the electorate to strongly react to negative advertisements. Negative ads have been found to generate fewer facts. This is has an impact of reducing the extent of sympathetic benevolence towards the aspirant during voting. However, owing to the electorates’ discernment that it was needless, he or she may possibly decide to reassess the sympathy for the aspirant.

In United States of America, most presidential, senate and other elections may possibly feature a current office holder. These aspirants are usually at a better position to triumph over their rivals due to the fact the electorate are acquainted with a lot of facts concerning them.  Due to this reason, unconstructive advertisements aired against them (incumbents or current office holders) can have a repercussion impact. This is attributed to the fact that the incumbent’s advertisements may possibly swell to a larger extent the contender’s profile identification and have an impact on both the voter turnout and voting tendencies (Karen and Hensel, 67). It has been verified that those electorate who are autonomous (whose reaction to negative advertisements of the contestants is low) are likely to turnout in large numbers to exercise their democratic rights through voting.


A key origin of predicament as far as political advertising is concerned is whether to make use of negative or positive advertising during the campaign period. Negative advertising tactics normally poses a myriad of detrimental consequences not only to our political system but also to the electorate who are required by law to partake in a voting process in order to select their preferred candidates. For that reason, there is a need for the politicians to make use of positive advertising strategies since they are likely to breed a more cohesive American society. I strongly believe that the “prevailing” state of mind of political advertisement campaigns requires to be stabilized by an additional “fostering” point of reference. This will ensure that the ideologies of laissez-faire democracy remain sustainable.

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