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Negative Campaign Advertising: Demobilizer or Mobilizer?

Martin P. Wattenberg and Craig Leonard Brians
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 93, No. 4 (Dec., 1999), pp. 891-899
DOI: 10.2307/2586119
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2586119
Page Count: 9
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Negative Campaign Advertising: Demobilizer or Mobilizer?
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Abstract

As political campaigns become increasingly adversarial, scholars are giving some much-needed attention to the effect of negative advertising on turnout. In a widely recognized Review article and subsequent book, Ansolabehere and his colleagues (1994, 1995) contend that attack advertising drives potential voters away from the polls. We dispute the generalizability of this claim outside the experimental setting. Using NES survey data as well as aggregate sources, we subject their research to rigorous real-world testing. The survey data directly contradict their findings, yielding no evidence of a turnout disadvantage for those who recollected negative presidential campaign advertising. In attempting to replicate Ansolabehere et al.'s earlier aggregate results we uncover quite substantial discrepancies and inconsistencies in their data set. We conclude that their aggregate study is deeply flawed and that Ansolabehere et al. exaggerated the demobilization dangers posed by attack advertising, at least in voters' own context.

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