Fighting Back: Attack and Response in Political Campaigns

23 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 6 Sep 2010

See all articles by Stephen Craig

Stephen Craig

Morgan Stanley

Marissa Grayson

Samford University

Paulina Rippere

Jacksonville University

Date Written: 2010


Although there is evidence indicating that negative advertising “works” (at least some of the time), little attention has been given to the question of how candidates should respond when they are attacked. As a first cut at assessing the effectiveness of several response strategies, this paper considers the views of academics, professional consultants, and ordinary citizens who participated in two focus groups on the topic of political advertising. We proceed from the assumption that uncivil attacks on relevant topics (those that speak to how a candidate will perform in office), if well-crafted and credible, are most likely to have the desired outcome and, hence, are the ones that targeted candidates can least afford to ignore. The next stage of our research will use experimental data to test the relative effectiveness of four response types: counterattacks (favored by most consultants), counterimaging, justifications, and excuses.

Suggested Citation

Craig, Stephen and Grayson, Marissa and Rippere, Paulina S, Fighting Back: Attack and Response in Political Campaigns (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Stephen Craig (Contact Author)

Morgan Stanley ( email )

1585 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
United States

Marissa Grayson

Samford University ( email )

800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States

Paulina S Rippere

Jacksonville University ( email )

2800 University Blvd. N.
Jacksonville, FL 32211
United States

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