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The perfect match: Negative campaigning and reporting in the Portuguese 2011 elections

Rui Novais
University of Liverpool
Rui Novais
University of Liverpool
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper deals with the recent 2011 elections in Portugal, marked by an unprecedented negative campaign as compared to previous Presidential ballots. Indeed, a risk-averse incumbent candidate was challenged by a series of newcomers all resorting to the strategy of issuing attack statements as well as tactically planting and leaking stories to influence the news agenda focused on the candidate’s personality, financial wrongdoing and performance while in office during the first mandate. Despite the fact that the rulling President opted for the silence stratagem failling to set the record straight in face of the accusations and information putted forth that was considered to be false or misleading, negative campaigning did not considerably interfere in the results although seems to have damaged the reputation of the re-elected President. The findings of this study question the effectiveness of negative campaigning that fit the news tone and orientation but may “boomerang” and backlash the sponsoring candidate.