Negative political ads influence voters’ decisions on the presidential election

Most successful negative ads are based on fear

Published Oct. 09, 2012

David L. Jaffe, B.A., M.S., Ph.D.Experts are predicting that the 2012 presidential campaign will be the most negative and the most expensive in recent history. Although voters claim to dislike negative political ads, the ads are a trademark during every presidential campaign. The majority of negative ads, often seen through mass media outlets are character and issue based.

“Studies show that negative messages do subtly lower excitement from voters towards particular candidates,” said David Jaffe, expert on the campaigns and the media and dean of Lynn University’s College of International Communication. “Arguably, the most effective type of negative advertisement in political campaigns are issue-based fear appeals that are directed at loved ones.”

Even though every demographic group is impacted in some way by positive and negative political ads, a recent study shows that both candidates are leaning towards negative ads. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, 70 percent of presidential campaign commercials so far have been negative, an increase from previous election years.

More on Jaffe:

David Jaffe is the dean of Lynn University’s College of International Communication and an expert on the campaigns and the media. 

  • Areas of expertise: multimedia journalism, television and radio, emergent communications technologies, journalism
  • Brief bio: Jaffe helped establish the first cable television origination station in the U.S. In 1985, he received a grant from the federal government to conduct research on a telephone-based broadcast delivery system that paved the way for Internet radio and television streaming.