Negative Campaigning, Fundraising, and Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment

42 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2013 Last revised: 19 Jun 2013

See all articles by Jared Barton

Jared Barton

California State University, Channel Islands

Marco Castillo

Department of Economics, Texas A&M University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Ragan Petrie

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics; University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research

Date Written: June 1, 2013

Abstract

Negative campaigning is a recurring feature of political competition, though its persistence is puzzling in light of research showing that the public dislikes it. Why do candidates risk alienating voters by going negative? One answer may lie in the large empirical literature on persuasion indicating that negative messages are more effective than positive messages in getting individuals to do many things, including voting and purchasing goods. Negative messages may work better because they contain more information, and individuals use this to update beliefs when making decisions. Or, the tone of the message may change preferences, without providing additional information. Which element, information or tone, underlies the effectiveness of such messages has not been clearly identified. We attempt to do so by using a field experiment in two elections for local office. We test the effect of a negative letter, a positive letter, or no letter sent to partisans on two measurable activities: campaign donations and voter turnout. We find no effect of message tone on campaign donations. However, we do find that tone is important in driving voter turnout, and this effect is separate from the effect of information. In our environment, going negative never hurts the candidates.

Suggested Citation

Barton, Jared and Castillo, Marco and Petrie, Ragan, Negative Campaigning, Fundraising, and Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment (June 1, 2013). GMU Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science Department of Economics Paper No. 13-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2280214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2280214

Jared Barton

California State University, Channel Islands ( email )

One University Drive
Camarillo, CA 93012
United States

Marco Castillo

Department of Economics, Texas A&M University ( email )

Allen Building
4228 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3137
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Ragan Petrie (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics ( email )

4228 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-4228
United States

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australia

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
94
Abstract Views
662
rank
286,604
PlumX Metrics