It goes by many names. Some know it as mudslinging. Others call it a smear campaign. Regardless of what you call it, it is basically negative campaigning. It is an effective marketing tool used in advertising. You’ve probably seen it in years gone by when Pepsi and Coke used to duke it out regularly in television ads. Any type of marketing program that pits one product against another in an effort to show the better of the two, which is initiated by the sponsor of the specific ad, is a form of negative marketing.
Negative Campaigning In Elections
Smear campaigns or mudslinging has a long history in elections. It is typically a tactic used to undermine an individual’s reputation, credibility, and character. These actions are intentional and premeditated. What makes mudslinging tactics so interesting is that they are almost always in the same format. They are built upon unverifiable rumours, half-truths, and the distortion of facts. Where they become most damaging is that the things said about another candidate in a smear campaign sound plausible.
How To Distingish Mudslinging From The Truth
This is simple. The next time you hear, read or see something online about a political candidate that sounds negative about that person, and comes from a source other than the person being targetted, ask these questions:
Can you verify the allegation(s) being made?
What is the original source of the allegation(s)?
There Are Disadvantages To Mudslinging
In elections, mudslinging can have a negative effect on voters. For example, many voters may become frustrated when a candidate puts more effort into attacking an opponent rather than in the promotion of their own election promises. The recent presidential election in South Korea (March 9, 2022) saw the two candidates take on each other with a string of verbal barbs. One voter described the situation on YouTube, as recorded by the media company Asian Boss, as “the candidates are not focused on the core issues and all they do is point out each other’s faults and scandals.” The attempt at mudslinging in this case backfired as both candidates ended up looking poorly in the eyes of the voters.
There Are Advantages To Mudslinging
For many politicians, mudslinging comes with the territory and forms an important element to an election campaign. Studies conducted on the topic have shown that negative campaigning does have positives. For example, if it is properly executed, candidates can draw the attention of undecided voters and reduce their feelings about the opponent. That appears to be the largest risk to mudslinging these days - the possibility of wooing new voters may be greater than having voters turned off by the tactic.
More Interesting Facts About Mudslinging
While this may make sense, the same study noted above found that candidates that are not leading opinion polls are more likely to launch a smear campaign. The reasoning behind this is that a trailing candidate has less to lose and everything to gain as mudslinging could increase support of that same candidate. Also, it appears that incumbents are not usually the ones who engage in mudslinging activities. Finally, research shows that female candidates don’t normally use negative campaigning as a tactic.
Candidates who resort to negative campaigning, a smear campaign, or mudslinging, are taking a big risk. Sure, they may win some extra supporters, but if they are already trailing in opinion polls, it may not be enough to make any difference. Plus, if the mudslinging goes sideways for any reason, both candidates can end up losing support. I much prefer to run a clean campaign free of any kind of game, mud or accusation. If that resonates with you, please remember to vote for me, George Elliott, on October 15, 2022.
Studies conducted on mudslinging and the effect of it in politics include:
Martin Wattenberg and Craig Brains, of the University of California, Irvine
Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar Study (1995)
Rick Farmer, PhD, University of Arkon assistant professor of political science
University of Georgia Study
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.