Essay Sample: Negative Campaigns and Democracy

Published: 2022-11-04
Essay Sample: Negative Campaigns and Democracy
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Politics Democracy Media
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1847 words
16 min read

Many people have a different perception on whether negative campaigns affects democracy or not. To some, it is a useful tool which may remain memorable in the minds of the young voters while to others it limits democracy based on the ground that it images the opponent in a bad light and may mislead the voters. In every campaign season, the pundits, the politicians, and the general citizens decry that negative campaigns penetrate the public discourse during every campaign period (Landman, 2018). The issue is at fever pitch in the United States and may not be taken for granted based on the nation's position and what is expected from it by the rest of the world when it comes to matters promotion of democracy. The American elections are becoming more competitive day by day hence attracting negative campaigns and ads. More money is also increasingly being spent on them, a situation which only leaves politicians with heavy financial muscles to continue politicking. Those without money are disadvantaged because they are not able to match the campaign level of their opponents. Even as the situation escalates, fear of slippery slope to the deleterious permanence continue to be misplaced. It is argued by most political scientists that the right of going negative will remain a challenge because most societies guarantee the freedom of speech thus allowing the issue to gain some constitutional momentum in any discussion or argument (Bike, 2004).

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The use of mass media has also been faulted on the issue of negative campaigns because they offer avenues to politicians to advance their agenda. The media, for example, the television has been for a long time opined to have negative change on the opinions of the voters in a particular nation. It influences the manner in which people think and offer a favorable platform to politicians to maximize their quest for votes (Tierney, 2018). It is from these concerns that different views are offered towards democracy hence the thesis of the paper. The thesis opine democracy to be dependent on the participation of the citizens with the inclusion of the young first-time voters. They are people who must understand that their participation in the electoral process must be peaceful and respectful to the provisions of the law. They must also be tolerant of varying views of other groups of individuals. They are thus made to believe that democracy is all about abiding by the law while respecting the views of other people without causing interference or infringements to anyone's rights. Negative campaigns are, therefore, seen to confuse the young minds and are increasingly becoming a serious problem in many nations globally. This issue thus poses the question of how a government can be effective if it fails to have the support of young people and how the younger generation can also become successful in a weak nation.

A case example of an election which was marred with what was opined by some as the negative campaign is the U.S. presidential election. It is an election which came with mixed reactions and surprises. It was one of the elections which was thought to act as a pacemaker following the successful two-four-year terms of President Obama's administration. The election involved a person who had long experience in matters governance and civil service and was thus expected that her ideologies would be data-driven and represent the wishes of the Democrats. Hillary Clinton's manifestos were expected to be directed to the minorities, the liberals, young people, the suburban women, and the highly educated individuals. Her opponent from the Republican Party (President Trump) came from the business community and was expected to have most of his ideologies based on improving the economy by looking at numerous sectors and channels that can help the United States live its dream. The duo, however, did not focus on their manifestos and ideologies but limited their discussions, debates, and campaigns to each other. Hillary Clinton made efforts of tearing Donald Trump as too inexperienced, divisive, racist, and unhinged to be president. She even took voters back to history about the real estate company of Trump's father which was sued for discriminating workers in the nineteen seventies. She proceeded to inform the citizens that they could not trust Donald Trump with the constitution, to her, Trump was unable to obey the law based on his track record. Trump on his side tore Hillary apart based on "her physical appearance" and the controversial email saga. He went ahead to inform the voters that Hillary deserved to be in jail and was under the protection of the F.B.I. The negative campaigns went ahead to a point where the two would not greet each other on public debates. At the end of the negative presidential campaign, there was a winner who to date is believed to have employed a better strategy than the opponent (Freedman, Franz, & Goldstein, 2004). Political scientists also believe that negative campaigns may be a strategy which is used by the politicians to give voters the chance of professing to detest, an issue which is somewhat paradoxical.

Even though the strategy may be working for the politicians, especially the one who manages to fire at the opponent relentless to the very end, the question of democracy remains an issue of concern (Stoker, 2016). It is indeed worrisome that the world's superpower which is believed to have advanced on matters democracy can be a victim of such a campaign. What about other nations across the world? For example, the third world countries whose democracies are still on trial. Democracy is based on four pillars. The pillars include; a political system founded on choosing governments based on free and fair elections, the role of the citizens in both civic life and politics, and, matters pertaining the protection of human rights (Fuchs & Roller, 2018). The last issue is on the rule of law where the law is required to apply to all the citizens in equal measure. A campaign must, therefore, be one which promotes the four pillars mentioned in democracy. The ultimate goal of any campaign is to allow everyone a fairground where they can air their views and appeal to the citizens before the Election Day.

It is explicit that negative campaigns do not promote the pillars of democracy hence putting the life of the young voters at risk. The kind of campaigns may end up confusing the young minds. Instead of choosing leaders based on the agendas and ideologies they have towards improving a nation, they may end up choosing those who offer better direct attacks to their opponents. Some may also make election decisions based on fear and anger. Some of the negative campaigns are normally coupled with emotional voltage, an issue which is believed be more persuasive than the rational appeals (Ordway & Wihbey, 2018). As such, it is easy for the younger generation or first-time voters to become victims. It is thus important for nations to take matters elections seriously and ensure that justice is done to every voter. It is also notable that most voters today are the youths unlike the past and must be guarded against negative campaigns to ensure that they make the right democratic choice. Such may be achieved by educating young people on matters pertaining elections and campaigns and how they can make the best choices. It may be difficult to change the political trends, but right civil groups can play a crucial role in championing for positive campaigns. The positive campaigns may not be appealing or have much effect like the negative campaigns but are arguably not confusing the minds of the first-time voters or the younger generation (Lau, Sigelman & Rovner, 2007). The civil society may also educate the young voters on their democratic rights and responsibilities. The education may extend to the manner in which they can improve their political skills and represent their common interest. Governments must also rise to the occasion and realize that their future is with the younger generation. They can only be effective if they support the young voters because the lesson learned by them (young voters) is what they will use in making decisions in the future for the nation. Some of the decisions may be critical to the nations' well-being and development.

Even as the discussion on negative campaigns continues with its effects to democracy, it is worthwhile to realize that the kind of campaign may also be useful in exposing some of the undesirable traits of the opponent to the voters. Some of the exposition may not be exclusively negative but factual, an issue which presents the positive aspect of the negative campaigns. The voters may thus receive a prior warning about a certain character before making a choice. The undesirable characteristics of negative campaigns are, however, many on democracy and to the young voters, issues which make the method inappropriate for use (Gregory, 2018).


In summary, negative campaigns are primarily used by politicians to disadvantage their opponents from selling their policies to the voters. It is a method which is common in most of the developing and developed nations. An example has been given concerning the U.S. 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The duo shifted their focus from their policies and those of their parties to individual attacks. Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of being inexperienced, divisive, and discriminatory. Donald Trump on his part made funny remarks on Hillary's physique while also focusing on some emails saga and even went ahead to accuse the F.B.I. of giving her protection. He insisted that Hillary was supposed to be arrested and jailed. Such issues image negative campaigns and may not be healthy for young voters. The voters may get confused and make decisions based on the manner in which candidates attack each other but not because of what will be done to them. The civil society must, therefore, take up the opportunity of educating young voters about their rights and responsibility and the manner in which they are supposed to make decisions during voting. The civil right society should equally remind the media to focus on positive campaigns based on the fact that they attract large viewership and may as such promote or advance democracy.


Bike, W. S. (2004). "Campaign Guide: Negative Campaigning". City: San Diego.

Freedman, P., Franz, M., & Goldstein, K. (2004). Campaign advertising and democratic citizenship. American Journal of Political Science, 48(4), 723-741.

Fuchs. D, & Roller. E. (2018). "Conceptualizing and Measuring the Quality of Democracy: The Citizens' Perspective" Politics and Governance. 6 (1): 22.

Gregory, P. (2018). Comparing the Effectiveness of Positive and Negative Political Campaigns. Retrieved from

Landman, T. (2018). "Democracy and Human Rights: Concepts, Measures, and Relationships". Politics and Governance. 6 (1): 48.

Lau, R. R., Sigelman, L., & Rovner, I. B. (2007). The effects of negative political campaigns: a meta-analytic reassessment. Journal of Politics, 69(4), 1176-1209.

Ordway, D., & Wihbey, J. (2018). Negative political ads and their effect on voters: an Updated collection of research - Journalist's Resource. Retrieved from

Stoker, G. (2016). Why politics matters: Making democracy work. Macmillan International Higher Education.

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