Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last three months you cannot have escaped the torrent of negative campaign advertising that has been inflicted on us this election cycle. Here in Illinois incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn has run a relentlessly negative campaign against his Republican challenger, mostly complaining that his challenger is rich. If the cheerfulness of a campaign is an indicator of a successful one, Bruce Rauner will win in a landslide.
There is no clear consensus about what the effects of negative campaign advertising actually are. This metastudy suggests that, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, negative ads don’t convince voters to vote for the candidate doing the negative advertising or depress the turnout of voters about whom the negative ads are run:
All told, the research literature does not bear out the idea that negative campaigning is an effective means of winning votes, even though it tends to be more memorable and stimulate knowledge about the campaign. Nor is there any reliable evidence that negative campaigning depresses voter turnout, though it does slightly lower feelings of political efficacy, trust in government and possibly overall public mood.
In other words if the purpose of negative campaign advertising is to produce a general mood of discouragement and futility, it’s working.