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Negative ads drive voters to minor parties

By Canfan - 28 June 2016 10


As we head into the final days of an election campaign, new research from the ANU has found negative political advertising is driving people to vote for minor parties and independents.

Political marketing researcher Dr Andrew Hughes of the ANU Research School of Management has studied political advertising, based on measuring people’s reactions to ads from previous elections, and found most political advertising is ineffective.

“Political advertising does not work. It doesn’t get attention, it’s not remembered all that well,” Dr Hughes said.

Dr Hughes said his study found the negative messages used in advertising by the major parties was particularly ineffective.

“Whilst attack adverts certainly bring up the emotions, they don’t convince people to change their vote. If anything negative advertising made people angry with the political process,” Dr Hughes said.

“When people do remember negative advertising it’s because they hate the ads. That’s not a good thing. You want people to like your ads because it means they will remember what’s in the message.”


The research was conducted by measuring biometric changes in people’s body, notably in heart rate and skin conductance, which measures the trace electricity produced after being exposed to political advertisements.

Dr Hughes said that while politicians still enjoy making ads that bring down their opponents, their effect was to push people towards the minor parties and independents.

“What I’ve noticed in this election more than anything else is that people are saying ‘I don’t like the ads for the major parties, this time around I’ll be voting independent’, “ Dr Hughes said.

“People have been quite clear on how they’re thinking as a consumer, that they’ve had enough of this form of advertising. They want positive messages, so the minor parties and independents seem positive, even though their policies might not be.

“This makes up part of the Nick Xenophon effect as well. He seems different, he seems positive because he’s not using these campaign methods.”

Dr Hughes said instead of negative advertising, political parties would be better off spending their money on developing positive ads and grass roots campaigning.

“Put the majority of the money into grass-roots campaigning like social media engagement, town hall events, meet-and-greets, a good website and policy delivery,” he said.

Pictured above are stills from the ALP’s advertisement arguing the Coalition plans to privatise Medicare and from the Liberals’ clip stating that Bill Shorten offers the “same old Labor”.

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