Negatively affecting voters’ issue considerations. An experimental study of parties’ attack communication.

Jonas Lefevere, Henrik Seeberg, Stefaan Walgrave

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Abstract

This paper investigates whether parties’ issue attacks can successfully discredit their rivals’ issue evaluations. Existing research demonstrates how a party can influence voters’ perceptions of itself on a single dimension of issue competition, but research showing the impact of negative campaigning on parties’ issue evaluations remains limited. Based on novel experimental evidence, we test the impact of three different types of issue attacks – attacking the rival’s position, competence or commitment on the issue – on voters’ evaluations of the rival party on three issue dimensions, namely position, competence, and commitment. The findings indicate that commitment and position attacks depress the rival party’s issue evaluations on that dimension, whereas competence attacks do not. Moreover, positional attacks lower position evaluations and competence evaluations but increase commitment evaluations. Finally, the effectiveness of attacks varies between issues, and party preference moderates the effects of issue attacks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-831
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Communication
Volume37
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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