The Journal of Politics

Research Article

Why Is Research on the Effects of Negative Campaigning So Inconclusive? Understanding Citizens’ Perceptions of Negativity

Lee Sigelmana1 and Mark Kuglera1

a1 The George Washington University


Prior research has produced inconclusive results concerning the effects of negative campaigning. Researchers’ reliance on encyclopedic, even-handed measures of the tone of campaigns may help account for this inconsistency, for such measures are unlikely to reflect the way that most citizens process information about campaigns. Testing this argument by analyzing data from three 1998 gubernatorial campaigns, we observe a lack of consensus in citizens’ perceptions of these campaigns, a lack of convergence between citizens’ perceptions and social science-style classifications of these campaigns, and an array of biasing factors in citizens’ perceptions.

(Online publication February 06 2001)

(Received October 18 2001)

Columbian College Distinguished Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, and editor of The American Political Science Review.

Ph.D. candidate in political science, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052.