This study examines the candidate strategy of distributing negative
messages in U.S. presidential campaigns. This study develops a
comprehensive model to account for candidate decisions to employ
negative messages in U.S. presidential campaigns and test it using data
collected from all available campaign advertisements produced by major
party candidates competing in the 1976-1996 U.S. presidential elections.
The findings of the analysis show that several variables such as 'timing,'
'opposition attacks,' and 'support difference' follow the expected
directions. The results suggest that how presidential candidates employ
negative messages hinges on the strategic rationale to maximize their
benefits in terms of changes in the specific campaign contexts over the
course of the campaign.
Key words: Presidential Campaigns, Negative Messages, Candidate
Strategy, Strategic Rationale, Campaign Contexts