What's Good for the Goose is Bad for the Gander: Negative Political Advertising, Partisanship, and Turnout
Stevens, Daniel P.
Journal of Politics
Cambridge University Press
This study examines citizens’ perceptions of fairness and legitimacy in political advertising. Using focus groups, an original national survey, and data on election 2000, as well as drawing on results from a replication of the national survey in 2004, we characterize political ads from the citizen's perspective. We then turn to the impact of “negative” advertising on voter turnout. Like several studies, we find circumstances under which turnout can be increased by negative ad criticisms. However, we show that this general result is only part of the story. Drawing on research in political psychology, we suggest that voters are “motivated processors” of advertising claims; as such, they evaluate the fairness of an ad according to their partisan predispositions. We show that when partisans perceive the criticisms of their own party's candidate to be fair, they are less likely to say they will vote. As a result, we find that negative advertising not only may affect the total turnout in an election but also has an important and varying impact on the composition of the electorate.
Vol. 70, Issue 2, pp. 527 - 541
PubMed Central ID