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Negative Campaigning: the Facts Behind the Attacks

September 24, 2012

Prof. Ahluwalia discusses negative campaigning with Business @ the U of M

As the November presidential election approaches, we're bracing ourselves for the usual onslaught of political attack ads. And in the past few years, we've become all too familiar with villainous characters like Mayhem -- the personification of car crashes and pitfalls that can befall homeowners.

It seems we're continually bombarded with attack and fear-based ads. Has this become the only way to sell a candidate or a product?

Rohini Ahluwalia, the Curtis L. Carlson Trust Professor of Marketing at the Carlson School of Management, has done extensive research on the subject. She specializes in consumer psychology and the influence of persuasive information related to brands, political candidates and issues. Here, she shares some of her findings.

When did we start to see negative information in political campaigning?

In the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater race and the famous "Daisy" ad. The ad showed a little girl with a daisy and she was taking off the petals. Then it showed a nuclear blast. It was a negative ad against Goldwater, creating fear about what the future would be if he was president. It capitalized on nuclear fear and it got everybody's attention. The election ended up being a landslide win for Johnson. In political advertising, it was a landmark event.

Read the rest of the Q&A on the Business @ the U of M blog.