PS: Political Science & Politics


The News Media and the Rise of Negativity in Presidential Campaigns

John G. Geera1

a1 Vanderbilt University

Negative ads have become increasingly common in presidential campaigns. Figure 1 well illustrates this point (see also West 2009). The upcoming 2012 elections will almost surely augment this upward trend of more and more negativity. In fact, with the emergence of Super Pacs, the share of attack ads in 2012 will likely be significantly higher than in 2008, which in and of itself was the high-water mark for attack ads in the modern era. The harsh tone of the battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination certainly points toward an exceptionally nasty fall campaign.

John G. Geer is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, chair of the department of political science, and co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll, Vanderbilt University. Geer has published numerous books and articles on presidential politics and elections and recently served as editor of The Journal of Politics (2005–2009). His book In Defense of Negativity: Attacks Ads in Presidential Campaigns, published by the University of Chicago Press, won the Goldsmith Book Prize from Harvard University. He can be reached at