The Civic Consequences of "Going Negative": Attack Ads and Adolescents' Knowledge, Consumption, and Participation

Ming Wang, Itay Gabay, Dhavan V. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


This study explores whether negative political advertising has any impact on adolescents. Two datasets are merged for this inquiry: (1) content-coded ad-buy data on the placement of campaign messages on a market-by-market and program-by-program basis and (2) national survey data of parent-child dyads collected immediately after the 2008 presidential election. The authors' analysis finds that the negativity of political advertising to which adolescents were exposed predicted human-interest candidate knowledge, but not policy-relevant candidate knowledge. In addition, the negativity of political advertising exposure suppressed political consumerism among adolescents, but had no effect on their levels of political participation. This study shows that political campaigns can affect adolescents' knowledge and participation in unconventional and potentially deleterious ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-271
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 8 2012



  • candidate knowledge
  • conscious consumption
  • election campaigns
  • negative advertising
  • youth socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

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