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  • Hannah Strauss

The Escalation of Negativity: A Trump Effect

The turn towards negative publicity and attack ads has, for a long time, been an unfortunate staple of any campaign and the presidential campaign especially. However, Donald Trump has harnessed the power of negativity—more free media, a greater spread of his name and ideas, and the ability to create a strong backing without the need to form many policies during the primary season—and shown how effective it can be. Peter Hart, an NBC/Wall Street Journal co-pollster, wrote in the First Read Blog, "I've been doing this sine1964, which was the Goldwater years. To me, this is the low point; I've seen the disgust and the polarization. Never, never have I seen anything like this.”

Donald Trump has tapped into a base of dissatisfied conservatives seeking to reclaim the White House after eight years of Obama. A January Gallup poll showed that, among Republicans and conservatives, 66% of survey participants answered that they were not better off now than eight years ago. When that is broken down to those who are 65 years and older, 88% of recipients responded that way. These people form the base of Donald Trump’s support and he has tapped into that dissatisfaction with his own negativity and by putting down the other candidates up against him to make himself seem like the only viable option.

A The Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll measured whether voters had a positive or negative view of the candidates and only John Kasich and Bernie Sanders have a positive rating, while Donald Trump has a -39 net favorability rating—by far the lowest of all the candidates. This poll coincides with another analysis done by data scientist Alex Petralia who analyzed how positive the Democratic and Republican candidates were by looking at the language they used during debates. The Democratic side showed a recent decline towards negativity, but the Republican side was another story. Fueled by Trump and attempting to combat him, the other candidates dipped into negative language at points, but they still were nothing compared to the business tycoon who dipped to 13% positivity during one debate. His negative language has hurt his reputation, but it has also gained him followers and massive amounts of free media and attention. Candidates, abused and hurt by Trump, have to respond to him.

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