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Candidates' use of negative campaign tactics, and especially negative political advertising, has generated a great deal of concern among public affairs experts. As elections near, political commentators typically decry the impact of negative campaigning on public affairs participation, claiming that negative political advertising is ruining the political process by contributing to widespread citizen disgust and disaffection.

What is Negative Campaigning?

Oftentimes, scholars consider a political message negative—and potentially damaging to the political process by extension—if it contains any form of challenge or candidate attack. In reality, candidates employ a mix of message strategies during political elections, and perceptions of campaign negativity commonly are a matter of individual perspectives. An advertisement may seem negative to some people, for example, when a candidate simply is challenging an assertion or ...

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