Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


This study examines the effects of negative political campaigns on voter turnout over the last 10 years. Voter turnout in the United States is extremely low in comparison to other advanced industrialized nations, and the negativity that surrounds our elections may be the key to understanding why. The study is also a response to recent scholarship with conflicting conclusions on how the tone of campaigns affects the electorate. The independent variable in this study is the degree of campaign negativity, as perceived by voters. It is measured by state exit poll responses over the past 10 years, and its effect on voter turnout is analyzed using multiple regression. The analysis reveals that when neither candidate is perceived to be “going negative,” voter turnout goes up; however, when the Republican candidate is perceived to be negative in a campaign, voter turnout also goes up. The implications of these findings are discussed.