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What really matters is which camp goes dirty: Differential effects of negative campaigning on turnout during Swiss federal ballots

Authors

  • ALESSANDRO NAI

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Geneva, Switzerland
      Alessandro Nai, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva, UniMail, Boulevard du Pont-d'Arve 40, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 (0) 22 379 8345; Fax: +41 (0) 22 379 8364; E-mail: alessandro.nai@unige.ch
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Alessandro Nai, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva, UniMail, Boulevard du Pont-d'Arve 40, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 (0) 22 379 8345; Fax: +41 (0) 22 379 8364; E-mail: alessandro.nai@unige.ch

Abstract

Using individual data on Swiss federal ballots (VOX data) and an original dataset on the evolution and content of political campaigns, this article elucidates how negative campaigning influences individual turnout during Swiss federal ballots. It hypothesises that the effect of negativism on turnout depends on ‘which camp goes dirty’ and, specifically, on the direction of the political campaign (‘status quo’ versus ‘policy change’ campaigns). A series of multilevel models provide strong support for the hypotheses, by showing that high negativism in ‘status quo campaigns’ decreases individual turnout, whereas high negativism for ‘policy change campaigns’ increases it. It is argued here that this could depend on the emotional responses triggered by negativism in political campaigns.

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