While the study of the use of negative campaign tactics has been a prolific topic of scholarship, previous studies have generally been limited in their ability to test the dynamics of negativity over the course of the campaign because their analysis of content from political campaigns is either static in nature or limited in its scope. Although we know that the closeness of the race, the status of the candidate as an incumbent or a challenger, and other characteristics affect the volume of negativity over the entire campaign, we know very little about when candidates choose to go negative beyond anecdotal evidence. Using a unique data set of over 1400 emails sent out by campaigns from a random sample of congressional districts in 2012, we look at the trends within email negativity over the course of the campaign to better understand what prompts a campaign to go negative at a certain point in the campaign. While our data supports previous findings regarding negativity in other forms of campaign communication, we also examine the effect of these variables on patterns of negativity over the course of the entire campaign to show when candidates go negative and what drives that decision.
Kelly Oeltjenbruns, ’15
Majors: Politics, International Relations
Sponsor: Hans Hassell