Negative Campaigning and the Logic of Retaliation in Multiparty Competition

Dolezal, Martin; Ennser-Jedenastik, Laurenz and Müller, Wolfgang C. (2016) Negative Campaigning and the Logic of Retaliation in Multiparty Competition. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 21 (2), pp. 253-272.

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Abstract or Table of Contents

The extant literature has demonstrated that the logic of retaliation is a core feature of negative campaigning. Attacks by one side induce counterattacks by the other. Yet most research on the interactive nature of negative campaigning is limited to two-party competition and provides little theoretical justification for why political actors should respond to attacks with counterattacks. The present paper addresses these research gaps. We argue that the negativity bias in human information processing and the zero-sum nature of elections make retaliation a rational strategy. Importantly, these arguments also imply that retaliation may not be the only plausible response to attacks in multiparty systems. Rather, parties may prefer to react to attacks from one competitor by attacking another. To grasp empirically how being attacked and attacking are related, we conduct a highly disaggregated time series analysis of such instances while controlling for other factors that may influence actor behavior. Our analyses draw on several thousand party press releases issued during three national election campaigns in Austria, a typical European multiparty system. They show that retaliation is an important strategy also in multiparty politics. Yet in such context, parties do not exclusively follow a tit-for-tat approach but rather display more complex patterns of attack behavior.

Item Type: Article in Academic Journal
Keywords: negative campaigning, political communication, multiparty competition, Austria
Research Units: European Governance and Public Finance
Status: Published
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2018 08:45
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2018 08:45
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1177/1940161215626566
ISSN: 1940-1612
URI: https://irihs.ihs.ac.at/id/eprint/4586

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