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Fighting Fire with Fire: The Implications of (Not) Going Negative in a Multiparty Election Campaign

  • Jason Roy (a1) and Christopher Alcantara (a2)

This paper draws upon data collected from an online voting experiment to test the implications of “going negative” in a multiparty election campaign. Specifically, we investigate two sets of questions: First, does the attention and vote share that candidates receive vary according to the tone (positive/negative) of their election campaign? Second, does the attention and vote share that candidates receive vary according to whether or not all candidates engage in similar (positive/negative) campaigns? While studies of “negative campaigning” have been prominent in the American context, our work builds upon this literature by using an experimental design to test for their effects in a multiparty setting.


Cet article se fonde sur des données recueillies lors d'une expérience de vote en ligne visant à mesurer les implications d'une « orientation négative » de la campagne dans une élection multipartite. Plus précisément, nous examinons deux séries de questions : premièrement, l'attention et les suffrages accordés aux candidats varient-ils en fonction du ton (positif/négatif) de leur campagne électorale ? Deuxièmement, l'attention et les suffrages accordés aux candidats varient- ils en fonction du fait que tous les candidats s'engagent ou non dans des campagnes (positives/négatives) analogues ? Même si les études sur les « campagnes négatives » tiennent une place importante dans le contexte américain, notre analyse s'inscrit dans le prolongement de ces travaux en adoptant un concept de recherche expérimentale qui vise à mesurer leurs effets dans un cadre multipartite.

Corresponding author
Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Ave W, Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5, Email:
Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond St, London, ON N6A 3K7, Email:
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Luciana Carraro and Luigi Castelli , Ioana Breazu , Giulia Campomizzi , Antonella Cerruto , Massimiliano and Ivano Toto . 2012. “Just Ignore or Counterattack? On the Effects of Different Strategies for Dealing with Political Attacks.” European Journal of Social Psychology 42: 789–97.

John G. Geer 2006. In Defence of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Yanna Krupnikov and Nichole M. Bauer . 2014. “The Relationship between Campaign Negativity, Gender and Campaign Context.” Political Behavior 36: 167–88.

Yanna Krupnikov and Spencer Piston . 2015. “Accentuating the Negative: Candidate Race and Campaign Strategy.” Political Communication 32 (1): 152–73.

Richard Lau , Lee Sigelman , and Ivy Brown Rovner . 2007. “The Effects of Negative Political Campaigns: A Meta-Analytic Reassessment”. The Journal of Politics. 69(4): 11761209.

Alessandro Nai . 2013. “What Really Matters is Which Camp Goes Dirty: Differential Effects of Negative Campaigning on Turnout During Swiss Federal Ballots.” European Journal of Political Research 52 (1): 4470.

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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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