Exploring the consequences of negative political advertising for liberal democracy

This source preferred by Richard Scullion

Authors: Dermody, J. and Scullion, R.

Journal: Journal of Political Marketing

Volume: 2

Pages: 77-100

ISSN: 1537-7857

This paper explores existing thinking and research on the use of negative advertising strategies in political campaigning, and in particular examines their potential impact on liberal democracy. We ask what impacts negative forms of political communication may have on our system of government and democratic participation. Though political advertising makes up only a part of political discourse, an analysis of it is necessary given the increasing “marketisation” of political communication, coupled with concerns regarding the so called “democratic deficit.” In order to more truly evaluate its impact, the evidence pertaining to both the positive and detrimental consequences of employing negative ad strategies is examined. What emerges are some very real short-term benefits, some very real concerns over its use, and confusion over its “true” impact. Of particular note is the need for researchers and campaign managers to take a longer-term view of the potentially detrimental consequences of employing negative advertising strategies-to look beyond the short-term gains of winning elections and to consider the longer- term societal consequences of consistently employing advertising strategies characterised by the creation of doubt, fear, anxiety, violation and viciousness. We argue that the “winning” mentality of political ad campaigns needs to be balanced by a more “nurturing” orientation if the tenets of liberal democracy are to remain sustainable.

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