Voters swayed by negative political messages

Monday, 6 March 2006

Mud does stick, it appears, especially when it comes to politics.

A University of Adelaide researcher has found that negative political advertising does influence voters, even though they may initially feel sympathy for the candidate being attacked.

Rhiannon Monks, who graduated in 2005 with Honours in a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in marketing, surveyed 180 Adelaide Law students to determine the effect of negative political advertising on voters.

Initial tests showed that people place little credibility on advertisements which strongly attack the opposition. In fact, the sample group expressed strong dislike towards the advertising sponsor and pity for the attacked candidate.

However, the reality is, the negative messages penetrate and the voters disregard their initial impressions, Rhiannon's research found.

"History shows that negative political advertising does have an influence," she said.

"Politicians who produce negative ads receive three times as many votes than the politician attacked. It suggests that while Australians regard negative political advertising as 'unjust and not fair dinkum,' the message sticks and voters do question the opposition's competence."

"This doesn't apply to die-hard party faithfuls. For people with a strong party preference, negative politicial advertising has nil effect.

"Rather, it affirms what they already believe. For example, if I am a Liberal supporter and Labor attacks my political stand, I will not believe it. However, if the Liberals attack Labor and label them incompetent, I will think they are right."

Rhiannon's research was supervised by leading marketing expert, Professor Pascale Quester. Rhiannon is completing a law degree at the University of Adelaide this semester and has no political affiliation with any party.


Contact Details

Rhiannon Monks
Mobile: 0423 763 666

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762