ANALYSIS OF NEGATIVE
The National Republical Congressional Committee, which regularly conducts audience-reaction tests of political commercials, has found that no format or strategy is necessarily superior, and no style tends consistently to secure more favorable reactions. Almost always the evaluation is dependent on how appropriate the selected style, format, and strategy is for the candidate in question, and how well the advertising seemed to fit the circumstances of a particular campaign, the personality of a particular candidate, and the electorate's preconceptions and prior prejudices about politics.
-- L. J. Sabato ( 1981, p. 122)
There is no magic formula for a successful negative political ad. What we have is a record of what has been used and why. Hopefully, from this record, we can learn how a negative ad is constructed, and we can begin to see the differences among the various types of negative ads. In order to facilitate an understanding of negative political ads, we have attempted to create a typology of commercials ranging from the broad to the narrow. It is hoped that this typology can be used to better integrate our knowledge of what works and how.
In Part II, we consider substance, style, origination, and channel used in negative political ads. Within these broad areas, we offer subcategories that should help explicate the general categories. Each of the areas and/or subcategories are illustrated with at least one example from a political campaign. This should allow the reader to see how each technique has been used in an actual campaign.