Marie Curie and Nottingham Research Fellow Annemarie Walter discussed negative campaigning and its relation to party systems at a Coffee and Politics talk on Tuesday.
While positive campaigning focuses on self-praise of the candidate through advertising, negative campaigning is political advertisements that directly criticize their opponents.
Walter works at Nottingham University, in Nottingham, Britain, and she focused her research on British politics and the inclusion of the multi-party system. She compared the multi-party system to that of the U.S. due to research being primarily in the U.S.
Compared to the U.S., Walter said election campaigns in Western Europe are shorter in length at about 4-6 weeks, tend to be less professional and have a lot less advertising space than the U.S., where candidates focus 50 percent of their campaign budget on advertising.
In Britain, for example, advertisements in a recent election depicted opposing politicians as blue aliens, puppets, and a candidate with drawn-on devil eyes, she said. Both Britain and the U.S. had the highest level of negative campaigning in the last few years compared to other countries.
By comparing different countries across Europe to the U.S., Walter found negative campaigning generally had a harmful effect on the candidate who created them. However, this differed slightly between the two-party system of the U.S. and the multi-party system of Britain.
In the multi-party system, voters tend to have multiple party preferences. When a preferred candidate uses negative campaigning, they tend to vote for their other preferred party. In this system, the main competitor of the candidate benefits the most.
Though negative campaigning harms a candidate in a two-party system, she said there tends to be more voter loyalty due to lack of choices.
Walter said despite different political systems, Britain is “highly inspired” by the U.S. politics with their big budgets and workforce and commonly visit political elections to gain ideas for future campaigns.
Regardless of the harmful results of some negative campaigns, she said there is nothing wrong with it as it is part of the political process.
Reporting by Katie Shadler