Campaigning for the Bench: The Content of Political Advertising in Judicial Races
28 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2014
Since the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (2002), candidate running for state judicial offices have been free to engage in position-taking during their campaigns. This has led to a general concern that the floodgates have been opened for negative campaigning paid for by “special interests” – a practice many begrudgingly accept for legislative and executive races, but is considered by many observers to be inappropriate for those seeking a position as judge. Using data compiled by the Wisconsin Advertising Project and the Wesleyan Media Project, we conduct a content analysis of judicial campaign ads over the last decade. We investigate what issues candidates focus on in their ads, what factors lead to negative advertising, and how often judicial candidates try to remain “above the fray” by not invoking political language or positions in their ads. This research provides insight not only into the dynamics of judicial campaign advertising, but how those dynamics differ from those in races for other offices.
Keywords: state supreme courts, political advertising
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