Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-8dvf2 Total loading time: 0.375 Render date: 2022-10-05T18:55:08.689Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": true, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Research Note: “Negative” Personalization: Party Leaders and Party Strategy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2016

Scott Pruysers*
University of Calgary
William Cross*
Carleton University
Department of Political Science, University of Calgary. 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Email:
Department of Political Science, Carleton University. 1125 Colonel By Drive. Ottawa, Ontario K1S5B6, Email:


While the negative campaigning literature has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, the precise targets of campaign negativity have not been fully explored, as candidates and their parties are largely treated as the same target. Likewise, although scholars are increasingly writing about the personalization of politics, this literature has not considered whether parties can “personalize” their opponents by focusing their messaging and attacks more on individual leaders than the parties they lead. In an attempt to bridge the gap between these two literatures, we develop the concept of negative personalization. Negative personalization, as we define it, is an emphasis on opposing party leaders in campaign communication more so than on the parties that they lead. Exploring recent election campaigns in Canada's largest province, we document the extent to which parties engage in negative personalization and suggest hypotheses for the factors leading to increased negative personalization.


Bien que la littérature sur les campagnes negatives ait enregistré une très forte croissance ces dernières années, les cibles précises d'une campagne négative n'ont pas été étudiées à fond, car les candidats et leurs partis sont largement traités comme constituant la même cible. De même, quoique les chercheurs publient de plus en plus sur la personnalisation de la politique, cette littérature n'a pas examiné si les partis peuvent « personnaliser » leurs opposants en focalisant leurs messages et leurs attaques davantage sur les chefs politiques que sur les partis qu'ils dirigent. Dans une tentative de combler l’écart entre ces deux littératures, nous développons le concept de personnalisation négative. La personnalisation négative, telle que nous la définissons, est un accent mis dans la communication de la campagne davantage sur les chefs du parti opposant que sur les partis qu'ils dirigent. En examinant les campagnes électorales récentes dans la plus grande province du Canada, nous documentons la mesure dans laquelle les partis s'engagent dans une personnalisation négative et suggérons des hypothèses pour rendre compte des facteurs qui contribuent à une personnalisation négative accrue.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aarts, Kees, Blais, André and Schmitt, Hermann., eds. 2011. Political Leaders and Democratic Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Adam, Silke and Maier, Michaela. 2010. “Personalization of Politics: A Critical Review and Agenda for Research.” In Communication Yearbook 34, ed. Salmon, C.. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Angus Reid Public Opinion. 2011. “Tory Lead Down to Four Points as Three Party Race Develops in Ontario.” (November 13, 2015).Google Scholar
Balmas, Meital, Rahat, Gideon, Sheafer, Tamir and Shenhav, Shaul. 2014. “Two Routes to Personalized Politics. Centralized and Decentralized Personalization.” Party Politics 20: 3751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartolini, Stefano and Mair, Peter. 1990. Identity, Competition and Electoral Availability. The Stability of European Electorates 1885–1985. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bittner, Amanda. 2011. Platform or Personality? The Role of Party Leaders in Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brians, Craig and Wattenberg, Martin P.. 1996. “Campaign Issue Knowledge and Salience: Comparing Reception from TV Commercials, TV News, and Newspapers.” American Journal of Political Science 40: 172–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Emmett, Buell, and Sigelman, Lee. 2008. Attack Politics: Negativity in Presidential Campaigns since 1960. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.Google Scholar
Caramani, Danielle. 2006. “Is There a European Electorate and What Does It Look Like? Evidence from Electoral Volatility Measures, 1976–2004.” West European Politics 29: 127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clarke, Harold, Jenson, Jane, LeDuc, Lawrence and Pammett, Jon. 1991. Absent Mandate: Interpreting Change in Canadian Elections. Toronto: Gage.Google Scholar
Cross, William. 2004. Political Parties. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
Cross, William and Young, Lisa. 2015. “Personalization of Campaigns in an SMP system: The Canadian Case.” Electoral Studies 39: 306315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cross, William, Malloy, Jonathan, Small, Tamara and Stephenson, Laura. 2015. Fighting for Votes: Parties, the Media, and Voters in an Ontario Election. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
Dalton, R.J. and Wattenberg, Martin P.. 2000. Parties Without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dalton, Russell, McAllister, Ian and Wattenberg, Martin P.. 2000. “The Consequences of Partisan Dealignment.” In Parties without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies, ed. Dalton, Russell and P, Martin. Wattenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Damore, David. 2002. “Candidate Strategy and the Decision to Go Negative.” Political Research Quarterly 55: 669–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
De Winter, Lieven and Baudewyns, Pierre. 2015. “Candidate Centred Campaigning in a Party Centred Context: The Case of Belgium.” Electoral Studies 39: 295305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DiStaso, Marcia. 2012. “The Annual Earnings Press Release's Dual Role: An Examination of Relationships with Local and National Media Coverage and Reputation.” Journal of Public Relations Research 24: 123–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Druckman, James, Kifer, Martin and Parkin, Michael. 2010. “Timeless Strategy Meets New Medium: Going Negative on Congressional Campaign Web Sites, 2002–2006.” Political Communication 27: 88103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eder, Nikolaus, Jenny, Marcelo and Muller, Wolfgang. 2015. “Winning Over Voters or Fighting Party Comrades? Personalized Constituency Campaigning in Austria.” Electoral Studies 39: 316–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foley, Michael. 2000. The British Presidency: Tony Blair and the Politics of Public Leadership. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
Fowler, Erika and Ridout, Travis. 2013. “Negative, Angry, and Ubiquitous: Political Advertising in 2012.” The Forum 10: 5161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geer, John. 1998. “Campaigns, Competition, and Political Advertising.” In New Perspectives on Party Politics, ed. Geer, John. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
Geer, John. 2006. In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gidengil, Elisabeth, Blais, André, Nadeau, Richard and Nevitte, Neil. 2000. “Are Party Leaders Becoming More Important to Vote Choice in Canada?” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington.Google Scholar
Hansen, Kasper and Pedersen, Rasmus. 2008. “Negative Campaigning in a Multiparty System.” Scandinavian Political Studies 31: 408–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hassell, Hans and Oeltjenbruns, Kelly. 2015. “When to Attack: The Trajectory of Congressional Campaign Negativity.American Politics Research 44 (2):, 222–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Audrey, Haynes and Rhine, Stacie. 1998. “Attack Politics in Presidential Nomination Campaigns: An Examination of the Frequency and Determinants of Intermediated Negative Messages Against Opponents.” Political Research Quarterly 51: 691721.Google Scholar
Johnston, Richard. 2003. “Prime Ministerial Contenders in Canada.” In Leaders’ Personalities and the Outcomes of Democratic Elections, ed. King, Anthony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Kaid, Lynda. 1997. “Effects of the Television Spots on Images of Dole and Clinton.” American Behavioral Scientist 40: 1085–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaid, Lynda, and Johnston, Anne. 1991. “Negative Versus Positive Television Advertising in U.S. Presidential Campaigns, 1960–1988.” Journal of Communication 41: 5364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karlsen, Rune and Skogerbø, Eli. 2013. “Candidate Campaigning In Parliamentary Systems: Individualized vs. Localized Campaigning.Party Politics 21: 428–39.Google Scholar
Karvonen, Lauri. 2010. The Personalisation of Politics: A Study of Parliamentary Democracies. Colchester UK: ECPR Press.Google Scholar
Kriesi, Hanspeter. 2012. “Personalization of National Election Campaigns.” Party Politics 18: 825–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krupnikov, Yanna. 2011. “When Does Negativity Demobilize? Tracing the Conditional Effect of Negative Campaigning on Voter Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science 55: 796812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lau, Richard and Pomper, Gerald. 2004. Negative Campaigning: An Analysis of U.S. Senate Elections. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
Lau, Richard and Rovner, Ivy. 2009. “Negative Campaigning.” Annual Review of Political Science 12: 285306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lau, Richard, Sigelman, Lee and Rovner, Ivy. 2007. “The Effects of Negative Political Campaigns: A Meta-analytic Reassessment.” Journal of Politics 69: 176209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McAllister, Ian. 2015. “The Personalization of Politics in Australia. Party Politics 21: 337345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mendelsohn, Matthew. 1993. “Television's Frames in the 1988 Canadian Election.” Canadian Journal of Communication 18: 149171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mendelsohn, Matthew. 1996. “Television News Frames in the 1993 Canadian Election.” In Seeing Ourselves: Media Power and Policy in Canada, ed. Holmes, Helen and Taras, David. Toronto: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
Peterson, David and Djupe, Paul. 2005. “When Primary Campaigns Go Negative: The Determinants of Campaign Negativity.” Political Research Quarterly 58: 4554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Poguntke, Thomas and Webb, Paul, eds. 2005. The Presidentialization of Politics: a Comparative Study of Modern Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rahat, Gideon and Sheafer, Tamir. 2007. “The Personalization(s) of Politics: Israel, 1949–2003.” Political Communication 24: 6580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reinnemann, Carsten, and Wilke, Jurgen. 2007. “It's the Debates, Stupid! How the Introduction of Televised Debates Changed the Portrayal of Chancellor Candidates in the German Press, 1949–2005.” The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 12: 92111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sanders, David and Norris, Pippa. 2005. “The Impact of Political Advertising in the UK General Election.” Political Research Quarterly 58: 525–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schulz, Winifred and Zeh, Reimar. 2005. “The Changing Election Coverage of German Television. A Content Analysis: 1990–2002.” Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research 30: 385407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Skaperdas, Stergios and Grofman, Bernard. 1995. “Modeling Negative Campaigning.” American Political Science Review 89: 4961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taras, David. 2001. Power and Betrayal in the Canadian Media. Peterborough: Broadview Press.Google Scholar
Walter, Annemarie and Vliegenthart, Rens. 2010. “Negative Campaigning Across Different Communication Channels: Different Ball Games?The International Journal of Press/Politics 5: 441–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ware, Alan. 2002. The American Direct Primary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wattenberg, Martin. 1995. The Rise Of Candidate-Centered Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Wattenberg, Martin and Brians, Craig. 1999. “Negative Campaign Advertising: Demobilizer or Mobilizer?American Political Science Review 93: 891–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zittel, Thomas. 2015. “Constituency Candidates in Comparative Perspective: How Personalized Are Constituency Campaigns, Why, and Does it Matter?Electoral Studies 39: 286–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zittel, Thomas and Gschwend, Thomas. 2008. “Individualised Constituency Campaigns in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: Candidates in the 2005 German Elections.” West European Politics 31: 9781003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Research Note: “Negative” Personalization: Party Leaders and Party Strategy
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Research Note: “Negative” Personalization: Party Leaders and Party Strategy
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Research Note: “Negative” Personalization: Party Leaders and Party Strategy
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *