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The Foley Institute Coffee & Politics


Melinda Gann Hall: Attacking Judges: The politics of judicial campaigns

Melinda Gann Hall PictureFriday September 18 | 12:00-1:00pm

Foley Speaker’s Room | 308 Bryan Hall

Melinda Gann Hall, is a professor from Michigan State University who is nationally recognized for her work in judicial politics. On September 18th she spoke on the politics of judicial campaigning. She discussed how negative campaigning can effect voter’s decisions. The perceived effect of negative campaigning would be to sway voters to for or against a particular candidate, Dr. Hall pointed out that this has not been the case. Some of the other expected results are declines in voter turnout and a delegitimizing of government.

The actual result of campaign negativity are quite different than what is expected. Campaign negativity leads to a higher voter turnout, as well as an agenda setting effect to a few specific issues. Additionally, negative campaign ads separate voters based on their partisan lines, in elections where candidates declare their party affiliation. Furthermore, negative campaigns are more exciting to the media and will gather more coverage and attention from media sources.

Professor Hall addressed how her research focus primarily on judges, and that she attained her information from recorded television ads and prior research gathered and focused on incumbent elections. Dr. Hall informed the audience that there are three separate types of ads; promotion ads, contrasting ads, and attacking ads. Each type of ad has different effects associated with it, especially depending on the type of election occurring.

In regards to partisan elections, attack ads were shown to have no measurable effect. In non-partisan elections, attack ads reduced the incumbent vote percentage and increased overall voter turnout. Dr. Hall further addressed how current research indicated that partisan labels are the largest contributor to elections. However, she noted that this type of research had only just begun, and that the available information associated with campaign ads had only begun to be gathered in the early 2000’s, and that such research so far has been narrow and focused. Dr. Hall pointed to increased amounts of research that still need to be conducted and that results further done the line could help point to more of the effects of campaign ads on elections.

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