Negative campaigning

Richard R. Lau, Ivy Brown Rovner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The past two decades have seen an explosion of social science research on negative political advertising as the number of political observers complaining about its use-if not negative campaigning itself-has also grown dramatically. This article reviews the literature on negative campaigning-what candidates are most likely to attack their opponent, under what circumstances, and most importantly, to what effect. We also discuss the many serious methodological issues that make studying media effects of any kind so difficult, and make suggestions for " best practices" in conducting media research. Contrary to popular belief, there is little scientific evidence that attacking one's opponent is a particularly effective campaign technique, or that it has deleterious effects on our system of government.We conclude with a discussion of whether negative political advertising is bad for democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-306
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Political Science
StatePublished - Jun 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Attack advertising
  • Demobilization
  • Meta-analysis
  • Negativity

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