Negative Ads Review

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Richard R. Lau, Lee Sigelman, and Ivy Brown Rovner (2007). The Effects of Negative Political Campaigns: A Meta-Analytic Reassessment. Journal of Politics, 69 (4), 1176-1209.


“The popularity of certain views, the salaries of those who hold them, and the availability of a few dramatic examples do not constitute convincing evidence. To state the matter bluntly:

There is no consistent evidence in the research literature that negative political campaigning ‘works’ in achieving the electoral results that attackers desire.

Although attacks probably do undermine evaluations of the candidates they target, they usually bring evaluations of the attackers down even more, and the net effect on vote choice is nil.”


The conventional wisdom about negative political campaigning holds that it works, i.e., it has the consequences its practitioners intend. Many observers also fear that negative campaigning has unintended but detrimental effects on the political system itself. An earlier meta-analytic assessment of the relevant literature found no reliable evidence for these claims, but since then the research literature has more than doubled in size and has greatly improved in quality. We reexamine this literature and find that the major conclusions from the earlier meta-analysis still hold.