Negative Campaigning in the Digital Age: Comparing Cost-Benefit Structures Across Parties, Issues and Communication Channels

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2020-05-10

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Abstract

Research on negative campaigning in multiparty systems has outlined several potential costs and benefits of “going negative.” However, most of these cost-benefit structures relate to contextual factors and party characteristics, such as parties’ position in the polls, their incumbency status or ideological extremity. What is often overlooked is that the costs and benefits of negative campaigning can also differ across issues and communication channels. Focusing on the 2017 Dutch General Elections, this study examines how cost-benefit structures of negative campaigning do not just differ across political parties, but also across issues and communication channels. Analyzing 1647 appeals that appeared in newspaper coverage, talk shows and in Facebook posts over a course of two weeks, the results of this study show that opposition parties and parties behind in the polls are more likely to use negative campaigning, that parties are more likely to go negative on issues that they do not own and that negative appeals are more common in newspaper coverage and talk shows than in political parties’ Facebook posts. My findings complement a growing literature on negative campaigning in multiparty systems and add more nuance to our understanding of political elites’ strategic calculus to go negative during campaigns.

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de Kleer, Dirck (2020). Negative Campaigning in the Digital Age: Comparing Cost-Benefit Structures Across Parties, Issues and Communication Channels. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/21082.


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