Scale matters: addressing the limited robustness of findings on negative advertising

J. Sullivan*, E.V. Sapir, T. Veen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Negative campaign advertising is a major component of the electoral landscape, and has received much attention in the literature. In many studies, political scientists have tried to explain why some campaign ads contain more negative messages than others and to identify the determinants of this form of campaign behavior. In recent years, a number of studies have acknowledged the differences between alternative measures of negativity, but, in most cases, it is assumed that since these measures are highly correlated, they are unidimensional and essentially interchangeable. In this article, we argue that much of the debate in the literature over negative campaigning is a result of inadequate operationalizations of negativity. Although debates over negativity have often been framed in conceptual terms, there is a methodological explanation for why they persist We begin our analysis by constructing reliable scales of negativity, and model them with salient predictors reported in the literature as significantly associated with campaign attacks. Our findings show that scaling does matter, and while some of the explanatory variables are robust predictors of negativity, most of them are not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-541
Number of pages21
JournalJapanese Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013



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