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Negative campaigning

Some of the findings of my research on negative campaigning are:

  • Incumbents go positive, but are attack magnets (ref)

  • Increasing ideological extremism and distance from the target drive negativity (ref)

  • Candidates attack upwards: they direct their attacks mainly against frontrunners (ref)

  • A logic of retaliation and reciprocity drives negativity: incentives seem to exist for candidates to go negative on rivals that attack them in return (ref)

  • Parties are more likely to go negative when they face unfavourable competitive standings and voting day is near (ref)

  • Negative campaigning attracts the attention of the media (ref)(ref)

  • Negativity is risky: using excessive negativity can depress electoral results (ref)

  • Negative campaigning is more effective for voters scoring high on psychopathy (ref)

  • Being exposed to a higher volume of negative messages often depresses evaluations of the target, whereas being exposed to a higher volume of positive messages enhances evaluation of the sponsor (ref)

  • Campaigns of populist candidates are substantially more negative and contain much more character attacks than campaigns of non-populist candidates (ref)

  • Humor reduces the backlash effect of political attacks, but does not reduce their effectiveness (ref)


Verhulsdonk, I., Nai, A., & Karp, J. (2021). Are Political Attacks a Laughing Matter? Three Experiments on Political Humor and the Effectiveness of Negative Campaigning. Political Research Quarterly. doi: 10.1177/10659129211023590


Maier, J., & Nai, A. (2021). Mapping the drivers of negative campaigning. Insights from a candidate survey. International Political Science Review. doi: 10.1177/0192512121994512

Nai, A., & Maier, J. (2020). Dark necessities? Candidates’ aversive personality traits and negative campaigning in the 2018 American Midterms. Electoral Studies. doi: 10.1016/j.electstud.2020.102233

​Nai, A., & Maier, J. (2020). Is negative campaigning a matter of taste? Political attacks, incivility, and the moderating role of individual differences. American Politics Research. doi: 10.1177/1532673X20965548

Nai, A., & Otto, L. (2020). When they go low, we gloat. How trait and state Schadenfreude moderate the perception and effect of negative political messages. Journal of Media Psychology. doi: 10.1027/1864-1105/a000283


Valli, C., & Nai, A. (2020). Attack politics from Albania to Zimbabwe. A large-scale comparative study on the drivers of negative campaigning. International Political Science Review. doi: 10.1177/0192512120946410

Seeberg, H. B., & Nai, A. (2020). Undermining a rival party’s issue competence through negative campaigning: Experimental evidence from the USA, Denmark, and AustraliaPolitical Studies. doi: 10.1177/0032321720916162

Maier, J., & Nai, A. (2020). Roaring candidates in the spotlight. Campaign negativity, emotions, and media coverage in 107 national elections. The International Journal of Press/Politics. doi: 10.1177/1940161220919093

Gerstlé, J., & Nai, A. (2019). Negativity, emotionality and populist rhetoric in election campaigns worldwide, and their effects on media attention and electoral successEuropean Journal of Communication, 34(4) 410–444.

Nai, A., & Martinez i Coma, F. (2019). Losing in the polls, time pressure, and the decision to go negative in referendum campaignsPolitics & Governance, 7(2), 278–296.

Nai, A. and Sciarini, P. (2018). Why 'going negative'? Strategic and situational determinants of personal attacks in Swiss direct democratic votesJournal of Political Marketing17(4), 382-417.

Nai, A., Martinez i Coma, F., and Maier, J. (2018). Donald Trump, populism, and the age of extremes: Comparing the personality traits and campaigning style of Trump and other leaders worldwide. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 49(3), 609–643.

Nai, A. (2018). Going negative, worldwide. Towards a general understanding of determinants and targets of negative campaigning​. Government & Opposition. doi: 10.1017/gov.2018.32

Nai, A. (2018). Fear and loathing in populist campaigns? Comparing the communication style of populists and non-populists in elections worldwide. Journal of Political Marketing. doi: 10.1080/15377857.2018.1491439

Nai, A., and Seeberg, HB. (2018). A series of persuasive events. Sequencing effects of negative and positive messages on party evaluations and perceptions of negativity. Journal of Marketing Communications24(4): 412-432.

Nai, A., and Maier, J. (2018). Perceived personality and campaign style of Hillary Clinton and Donald TrumpPersonality and Individual Differences, 121: 80-83.

Nai, A. and Walter, A. S. (Eds.) (2015). New perspectives on negative campaigning: why attack politics matters, Colchester: ECPR Press.


Nai, A. (2013). What really matters is which camp goes dirty. Differential effects of negative campaigning on turnout during Swiss federal ballotsEuropean Journal of Political Research, 52(1): 44-70. 

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