A study of 77 registered U.S. voters ages 18 to 23 reveals negative "attack" ads provoke more voter migration than ads with positive messages.
Researchers used real advertisements from the 2004 presidential election to determine that although negative political ads are explicitly disliked, they have a powerful impact on voters
that positive ads do not.
Joan M. Phillips, Joel E. Urbany, both of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and Thomas J. Reynolds of the University of Texas at Dallas asked participants -- 93 percent of whom said at the time that they would definitely vote in the 2004 presidential election -- to indicate their likelihood of support on a seven-point scale: definitely (George W.) Bush, most likely Bush, leaning toward Bush, undecided, leaning toward (John) Kerry, most likely Kerry, definitely Kerry.
The study, published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, found that overall, negative advertising prompted more movement along the seven-point scale, causing voters to both strengthen their resolve and to move away from the candidate they initially supported.