Do Smear Campaigns work?

Group members: Michelle Thomas, Reem Alfaiz, Andrew Mikofalvy

The data shows the effectiveness of negative ad campaigns as well as their tendency to be used as a last resort in gaining support and lowering support for competitors. We wanted to tell this story because of the over saturation of campaign ads and curiosity over the effectiveness of negativity.

We used data from the Politcal TV Ad Archive to look at which candidates negative ads were targeting as well as when they were being published. We compared those findings to voter results in each primary and caucus from data from the New York Times. We chose to tell this story through a line graph representing voter results overlayed with a bar graph depicting air count of negative ads per candidate. Both graphs are plotted over the time frame of February 1st- March 1st. This is the date of the first caucus until Super Tuesday, a day in which 12 states and 1 territory hold their primaries and caucuses. This layout allows people to see the race between candidates and relate it to when campaigns chose to start using negative ads, as well as if the candidates they target did worse or not. We felt that this is an effective time frame as Super Tuesday is a large sample of voting results and holds a perceived weight for campaign success. We chose to use delegates won as the measure for candidate success since it factors in issues such as relative importance of states, since negative ads were shown more in some states than others. We also included explanatory text so that the chart is understandable regardless of political system education.


View infographic here