Negative Campaigning

Over at Loaded Orygun, James X has an interesting diary post discussing negative campaigning, and analysing the campaigning we've already seen in the US Senate democratic primary between Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick. First, James X defines negative advertising from his research and discusses its effects:

Negative campaigning is talking about the opponent -- criticizing his or her programs, accomplishments, qualifications, and so on. Positive campaigning is just the opposite: talking about one's own programs, accomplishments, qualifications, and so on.

-Negative campaigning generally hurts incumbents, but does little to help challengers.
-Negative campaigning generally hurts candidates with more money, and helps a little for those with less.
-Issue-based and personal attacks show little difference in effectiveness.
-Negative campaigning tends to be used most by candidates who are behind or very close in polls, and least by candidates who have clearer leads.
-Negativity often has adverse results.
-On the whole, negative ads fall significantly short of achieving their intended results.

He then discusses the effect negative campaigning may play in the democratic primary here in Oregon for US Senate, specifically comments made by Novick criticizing Merkley's campaign:

I agree that Novick's criticism of Merkley is a test for Merkley. But it's hardly a selfless one from Novick. There's clearly an attempt at baiting Merkley to respond in kind, with repeated calls on Merkley to hit back coming from his supporters. This, combined with assertions that an all-positive Merkley campaign is "demeaning and insulting to Novick," suggests that there's something Novick supporters are trying to gain by getting Merkley to go negative. When one considers Novick supporters' beef that the press, party leaders, and party establishment seem to see Merkley as the clear frontrunner, I believe that the "something" that Novick supporters are trying to gain is the shattering of the perception that Merkley is the clear frontrunner.

I can see why Merkley would hesitate to take Novick up on his supporters' offer.

Novick's criticisms of Merkley are a test. Not a test of how hard Merkley can punch back, but of how well Merkley can calculate whether or to what degree to punch back. Right now, it would appear that Merkley is calculating a positive strategy to be the winning strategy. Merkley may yet have some negative campaigning planned, and I'm sure Novick's supporters will embrace any such negativity as a compliment just as much as they deride positivity as an insult. But if Merkley's positivity persists, so be it. Novick's supporters can find solace in their belief that Merkley does not know how to respond to attacks, and can look forward to their victory in May.

Read the rest and comment over at Loaded Orygun.


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