How Political Attack Ads Work

Author's Note: How Political Attack Ads Work

Former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle once described attack ads as "the crack cocaine of politics." If you look at the overwhelming frequency of negative ads during campaign season, it does appear that the U.S. political system has developed an intense addiction to hitting rival candidates below the belt on the airwaves. This, despite public opinion polls that suggest time and time again that the electorate would rather say 'no' to attack ads. And before I dug into the research on whether political attack ads are effective, I assumed that they likely didn't deliver much of a punch at the polls. But it turns out that even though a majority of Americans would prefer to see a clean competition, it's the attack ads that energize the electorate the most.

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