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Negative Campaigning: Asset or Liability?

With the 2008 election less than a month away, the campaigns of the two major party presidential candidates are at a juncture, finding the tendency to “go negative” difficult to resist. The AARP Undecided Voter Survey conducted telephone interviews with likely voters who are not firmly committed to any presidential candidate. This research provides critical insights into the advantages of avoiding partisan rancor and seeking bipartisan solutions in securing support from undecided and leaning voters. Undecided voters are more likely to lend support to non-partisan, issues-focused candidates than to those that are seen as promoting divisiveness.

Survey findings include:

  • Candidates that are viewed as being able to cut through partisanship enjoy a higher degree of support than those that are not identified as bipartisan.
  • Bipartisan candidates receive double the support from those aged 18-49 and more than triple the support from those aged 50+ relative to candidates that are not viewed as being as issues-focused and bipartisan.
  • Viewing candidates as bipartisan is not wholly dependent on party affiliation. Independents, Republicans in general, and Democrats over age 50 are the most likely to vote against their party affiliations to support bipartisan candidates who focus on the issues of financial security and health care.

Woelfel Research, Inc., conducted the interviews with a random sample of 1,000 respondents at least 18 years old who were likely to vote in the November presidential election and were not firmly committed to any presidential candidate. The telephone interviews were completed between August 29 and September 14, 2008. For more information, contact Gerard Rainville at (202) 434-6295. (3 pages)

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