Since June 2016, the Negative Campaigning Comparative Expert Survey Dataset (NEGex) collects the use of negative campaigningand other rhetoric elements used by parties and candidateds competing in elections worldwide. NEGex is now the first and largest comparative dataset on the use of negative campaigning in elections worldwide based on expert judgments. Data gathering is currently under way. As of August 2019, data for 119 national elections has been collected, based on judgments provided by more than 1500 country experts. 

Some of the findings of my research on negative campaigning, with the NEGex dataset and beyond, 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)

  • Negativity substantially drives media coverage: candidates that go negative benefit from a greater coverage (ref)

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

Publications

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 votes. Journal 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 Trump. Personality 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 ballots. European Journal of Political Research, 52(1): 44-70.