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Do Negative Campaigns Mobilize or Suppress Turnout? Clarifying the Relationship between Negativity and Participation

  • Kim Fridkin Kahn (a1) and Patrick J. Kenney (a1)

Does negative campaigning influence the likelihood of voting in elections? Our study of U.S. Senate campaigns indicates the answer is “yes.” We find that people distinguish between useful negative information presented in an appropriate manner and irrelevant and harsh mudslinging. As the proportion of legitimate criticisms increases in campaigns, citizens become more likely to cast ballots. When campaigns degenerate into unsubstantiated and shrill attacks, voters tend to stay home. Finally, we find that individuals vary in their sensitivity to the tenor of campaigns. In particular, the tone is more consequential for independents, for those with less interest in politics, and for those with less knowledge about politics.

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American Political Science Review
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