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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Negative Campaigning in Ghana’s 2012 Election Campaigns: A Tool for Persuasion or Mobilisation?

Mascha Rauschenbach
Universität Mannheim
Mascha Rauschenbach
Universität Mannheim

While there is a broad body of literature with evidence mainly from American politics on the effect of negative campaigning on different aspects of voting behavior, the conditions under which politicians apply this strategy remain under-researched. The present paper investigates the effect of competitiveness of elections on the intensity of negative campaigning in Ghana’s 2012 presidential election campaigns. The setup is a within country comparative study focusing on the constituency-level. While it seems intuitive that candidates increase negative campaigning efforts with increasing competitiveness of elections, I argue that this does not imply that negative campaigning will be higher in competitive constituencies than in strongholds. Quite to the contrary, I expect candidates to use negative campaigning increasingly in strongholds rather than in swing constituencies. Based on recent research conducted on elections in Zimbabwe, I argue that negative campaigning is used with the intention to foster cohesion and increase turnout among likely supporters rather than to persuade swing voters. This hypothesis is tested against original data collected in Ghana’s 2012 presidential election campaigns. The data include speeches delivered by the two main presidential aspirants on all public rallies held in Ghana’s 275 constituencies during the official 90-day campaigning period in the run up to the presidential elections.
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