The rate of purely negative political ads is nearly three times that of the 2000 election. In fact, purely negative ads have been on the rise steadily between the 2000 and 2012 election. Why? Because they work in motivating voters to turn out…that is, if they’re timed right.
According to a new controversial study, reviewed in the current issue of Science,
negative ads are effective in increasing voter participation, but only after voters have made up their minds. The impact of message tone on voter turnout has been a hotly debated topic for some time. Studies have found that negative political ads have a universally positive effect on voter turnout, while others have found them to universally negative. The truth, however, may lie somewhere in between.
These findings shed interesting light on the relationship between positive communication and human behavior.
Here’s the take away: negative political ads, while negative in content, play a key role in the overall generative process of political participation precisely because they move us to protect our favorite candidate, take a stand for what we believe in, and exercise our desire to make our world a better place. So even negativity can inspire positive work.