Negative Campaigning: Controversy in Theory and Practice

First Year Seminar 100 I – Fall 2007 – Allan Louden – Communication

Seminar Goal: To challenge the “conventional wisdom” surrounding our understanding of negative campaigning. Negative advertising is almost universally condemned by media and pundits (even as they promote it), yet as with most things it is not nearly that simple. The focus of the class will be political advertising: spots, direct mail, and media coverage. Questions to be addressed in class include:

  • Are negative campaigns effective/necessary/inevitable?
  • Do negative ads/campaign affect voter turnout/cynicism?
  • What should be the role of media in campaigns, e.g., ad watches - do they matter?
  • How do voters affect advertising, What are the constraints on message production?
  • What is the role of corporate and third party advertising & legal issues
  • Do negative campaigns impact the ability to govern?

Class Logistics:

Research Assignment
Presentation Assignments

Preparing Research Paper (TBA)

Student PowerPoints for Informational Presentation:

527s (Allan), Trends in Pol Advertising (Alyssa), State Regulations (Ryan), Consultant's Ethics (Tom); Radio Advertising (Marte), Newspaper Advertising (Phillip); Ethical Standards for Media (Max); Emotion in Ads (David); McCain-Feingold (Jay)


Geer, J. G. (2006). In defense of negativity: Attack ads in presidential campaigns. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Lau, R. R., & Pomper, G. M. (2004) Negative campaigning: An analysis of U.S. Senate elections. Landham, MD:Rowman & Littlefield.