Attack Politics in Presidential Nomination Campaigns: An Examination of the Frequency and Determinants of Intermediated Negative Messages against Opponents

By Haynes, Audrey A.; Rhine, Staci L. | Political Research Quarterly, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Attack Politics in Presidential Nomination Campaigns: An Examination of the Frequency and Determinants of Intermediated Negative Messages against Opponents


Haynes, Audrey A., Rhine, Staci L., Political Research Quarterly


This article explores the negative campaign messages made by presidential nomination candidates on their opponents. Using a compilation of national and state media accounts of candidate attack activity from the 1992 Democratic nomination race, we seek to answer the questions -- are the intermediated attacks made by presidential nomination candidates random events or are they predictable consequences of measurable variables? Moreover, when candidates attack, who is their likely target? We find that intermediated candidate attacks can be predicted based on a number of conditions. Among these conditions are competitive positioning, reward factors and media-related conditions. Moreover, the general foci of attacks appear to be limited to attacking those who are competitively in the top tier. Attacks vary both in their frequency and in their nature depending on the competitive stage of the campaign. The systematic evaluation of these opponent-focused negative messages and their role in candidate strategy and voter evaluation is important for understanding presidential nomination politics and strategic communication in elections in general.

Candidates for presidential nominations and elections, in general, want to win. In order to do so they must defeat their opponents. But the strategies they use are varied. Some of these have been studied closely-resource allocation strategy and its impact, for example (Gurian 1996; Welch 1976; Aldrich 1980; Orren 1985; Parent, Jillson, and Weber 1987; Haynes, Gurian, and Nichols 1997). Another area of interest is the strategic use of methods of political communication, particularly political advertising (Just et al. 1996; West 1994; Roberts and McCombs 1994; Christ, Thorson, and Caywood 1994). Of recent intense scrutiny has been the use of negative advertising in political campaigns (Ansolabehere, Iyengar, Simon, and Valentino 1994; Kern and Just 1995; Mayer 1996).

One area that has been virtually unexplored, however, is the use of alternative means for criticizing an opponent. One of these is the use of the news media as an intermediary delivery option. While a more difficult medium for candidates to control, it is one to which they often turn. While they are sometimes unsuccessful in obtaining news coverage of their criticisms of opponents, when their messages come in the form of "news" they may be more convincing to voters. Particularly for those candidates with limited resources, this outlet may be their only hope to reach the public.

In the context of multi-candidate nomination campaigns only a few scholars have focused on the antecedents of attack behavior or the targets of these attacks. Aside from the seminal work of John Aldrich (1980) and a few other works focusing on winnowing effects (Matthews 1978; Brams 1978; Marshall 1981), and Gurian's (1996) theoretical work on defeating behavior, our understanding of competitive behavior among candidates is limited. Yet the attack behavior that precipitates negative campaigning is an important aspect of campaign competition. Moreover, the recent "rules" changes in the presidential nomination process, particularly frontloading and "mega-delegate" events like Super Tuesday, may alter the role that attack strategy may play and its impact from what it was previously.

We are interested in the conditions that precipitate negative campaigning. Are the attacks made by candidates on their opponents random events or are they predictable consequences of measurable variables? To some extent negative campaigning must occur. Candidates need to contrast themselves with their opponents. This is particularly true during multi-candidate primaries when the field consists of intra-party candidates who generally hold similar issue positions (Marshall 1983; Norrander 1986). Generally, when the field is crowded the public is paying little attention and thus, candidates must seek to distinguish themselves from their competition, both within and outside their party Inevitably this must involve comparison, and comparison often takes a negative form. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Attack Politics in Presidential Nomination Campaigns: An Examination of the Frequency and Determinants of Intermediated Negative Messages against Opponents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.