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Negative Campaigning, Fundraising, and voter turnout: A field experiment

tWhy do candidates risk alienating voters by engaging in negative campaigning? One answermay lie in the large empirical literature indicating that negative messages are more effec-tive than positive messages in getting individuals to do many things, including voting andpurchasing goods. Few contributions to this literature, however, gather data from a fieldenvironment with messages whose tone has been validated. We conduct field experimentsin two elections for local office which test the effect of confirmed negative and positiveletters sent to candidates’ partisans on two measurable activities: donating to the candi-date and turning out to vote. We find that message tone increases partisan support in waysthat may help explain the persistence of negative campaigning. Negative messages are nobetter than positive messages at earning the candidates donations, but negative messagesyield significantly higher rates of voter turnout among the candidates’ partisans relative topositive messages. Positive messages, however, are not neutral relative to no message.© 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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