Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Negative campaigning emphasizes what is wrong with an opponent, in terms of policy or personality. American research shows that negative campaigning online has become entrenched. The objective of this paper is to provide an empirical account of the amount and condition of negative messages produced on Twitter by Canadian party leaders. The data comes from a content analysis of tweets in two elections held in 2011. This paper has two research questions: first, what is the tone of Twitter communication? Is there differential use of Twitter by incumbents and challengers in terms of tone? Despite expectations, the data shows Canadian party leaders infrequently attack opponents on Twitter; less than 10% of tweets are negative. This said, we do find evidence that challengers are more likely than incumbents to go negative on Twitter. The paper concludes by considering the implications of this finding for future research on online negativity.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Ancu, Monica
    2010 “From Soundbite to Textbite: Election 2008 Comments on Twitter.” InTechno Politics in Presidential Campaigning: New Voices, New Technologies, and New Voters, edited by John Allen Hendricks and Lynda Lee Kaid , 11–21. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Ansolabehere, Stephen , and Shanto Iyengar
    2010Going Negative: How Political Ads Shrink and Polarize the Electorate. New York: Simon and Schuster.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Banwart, Mary Christine
    2004 “Webstyles in 2004: The Gendering of Candidates on Campaign Web Sites.” InThe Internet Election: Perspectives on the Web in Campaign, edited by Andrew Paul Williams and John C. Tedesco , 37–56. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Benoit, William L.
    2011 “Content Analysis in Political Communication.” InSourcebook for Political Communication Research: Methods, Measures, and Analytical Techniques, edited by Erik P. Bucy and R. Lance Holbert , 268–79. New York: Taylor and Francis.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Canadian Press
    Canadian Press 2011 “Social Media Takes Off in First Week of Election Campaign: Political Leaders Rely on Social Media Users to Pick up and Spread the Message.” News 1130, April2 2017 www.news1130.com/2011/04/02/social-media-takes-off-in-first-week-of-election-campaign/.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Chadwick, Andrew
    2006Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies. Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Cunningham, Stanley B.
    1999 “The Theory and Use of Political Advertising.” InTelevision Advertising in Canadian Elections: The Attack Mode, 1993, edited by Walter I. Romanow , Michel de Repentigny , Stanley B. Cunningham , Walter C. Soderlund , and Kai Hildebrand , 11–25. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Druckman, James N. , Martin J. Kifer , and Michael Parkin
    2010 “Timeless Strategy Meets New Medium: Going Negative on Congressional Campaign Web Sites, 2002–2006.” Political Communication27 (1): 88–103. doi: 10.1080/10584600903502607
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10584600903502607 [Google Scholar]
  9. Ellis, Faron , and Peter Woolstencroft
    2006 “A Change of Government, Not a Change of Country: Conservatives in the 2006 Federal Election.” InThe Canadian Federal Election of 2006, edited by Chris Dornan and Jon H. Pammett , 58–92. Toronto: Dundurn.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Fekete, Jason
    2012 “New Conservative Attack Ads Target Mulcair and NDP Economic Policies.” Canada.com, June25 2012 o.canada.com/news/politics-and-the-nation/new-conservative-attack-ad-targets-mulcair-and-ndp-economic-policies.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Fridkin, Kim L. , and Patrick J. Kenney
    2008 “The Dimensions of Negative Messages.” American Politics Research36 (5): 694–723. doi: 10.1177/1532673X08316448
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673X08316448 [Google Scholar]
  12. Galloway, Gloria
    2012 “With NDP Riding High, Tories at Last Hit Mulcair with Attack Ads.” The Globe and Mail, June25 2012 www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/with-ndp-riding-high-tories-at-last-hit-mulcair-with-attack-ads/article4368155/.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Geer, John Gray
    2006In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns. Book, Whole. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. doi: 10.7208/chicago/9780226285009.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226285009.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  14. Harpham, Edward J.
    1999 “Going On-Line: The 1998 Congressional Campaign.” 95th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta, Georgia.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Ipsos Reid
    Ipsos Reid 2011 “Canada’s Love Affair with Online Social Networking Continues” AccessedMay 29, 2011. www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=5286.
  16. Kahn Fridkin, Kim , and Patrick J. Kenney
    2004No Holds Barred: Negativity in US Senate Campaigns. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Kaid, Lynda Lee
    2000 “Ethics and Political Advertising.” InPolitical Communication Ethics: An Oxymoron?, edited by Robert E. Denton , 147–77. Westport: Praeger.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Klotz, Robert
    1997 “Positive Spin: Senate Campaigning on the Web.” PS: Political Science and Politics30 (3): 482–86.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. 1998 “Virtual Criticism: Negative Advertising on the Internet in the 1996 Senate Races.” Political Communication15 (3): 347–65. doi: 10.1080/105846098198939
    https://doi.org/10.1080/105846098198939 [Google Scholar]
  20. 2004The Politics of Internet Communication. Book, Whole. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Lau, Richard R. , and Gerald M. Pomper
    2004Negative Campaigning: An Analysis of Us Senate Elections. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Lombard, Matthew , Jennifer Snyder‐Duch , and Cheryl Campanella Bracken
    2002 “Content Analysis in Mass Communication: Assessment and Reporting of Intercoder Reliability.” Human Communication Research28 (4): 587–604. doi: 10.1111/j.1468‑2958.2002.tb00826.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2002.tb00826.x [Google Scholar]
  23. Margolis, Michael , and David Resnick
    2000Politics as Usual: The Cyberspace Revolution. Book, Whole. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Mark, David
    2009Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning. Book, Whole. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Momoc, Antonio
    2012 “The Presidential Candidates on Twitter during the 2009 Romanian Elections.” Romanian Journal of Communication and Public Relations, no.1: 21–37.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Moody, Mia , Liz Cohen , and Claire Fournon
    2013 “Negativity in a Twitter Age: How Politicians Are Adapting to Social Media.” Journal of Mass Communication and Journalism3 (151).
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Rose, Jonathan
    2012 “Are Negative Ads Positive? Political Advertising and the Permanent Campaign.” InHow Canadians Communicate IV: Media and Politics, edited by David Taras and Christopher Waddell , 4:149–68. Athabasca: Athabasca University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Rosenstiel, Tom , Amy Mitchell , and Mark Jurkowitz
    2012 “Winning the Media Campaign 2012: Both Candidates Received More Negative than Positive Coverage in Mainstream News, but Social Media Was Even Harsher. Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, November2 2012 www.journalism.org/2012/11/02/winning-media-campaign-2012/.
  29. Schweitzer, Eva Johanna
    2008 “Innovation or Normalization in E-Campaigning? A Longitudinal Content and Structural Analysis of German Party Websites in the 2002 and 2005 National Elections.” European Journal of Communication23 (4): 449–70. doi: 10.1177/0267323108096994
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323108096994 [Google Scholar]
  30. 2010 “Global Patterns of Virtual Mudslinging? The Use of Attacks on German Party Websites in State, National and European Parliamentary Elections.” German Politics19 (2): 200–221. doi: 10.1080/09644001003774149
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09644001003774149 [Google Scholar]
  31. Small, Tamara A.
    2012 “E-Ttack Politics: Negativity, the Internet & Canadian Political Parties.” InHow Canadians Communicate IV: Media and Politics, edited by David Taras and Christopher Waddell , 169–88. Athabasca: Athabasca University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Soroka, Stuart , Fred Cutler , Dietlind Stolle , and Patrick Fournier
    2011 “Capturing Change (and Stability) in the 2011 Campaign.” Policy Options32: 70–77.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Souley, Boubacar , and Robert H. Wicks
    2005 “Tracking the 2004 Presidential Campaign Web Sites Similarities and Differences.” American Behavioral Scientist49 (4): 535–47. doi: 10.1177/0002764205279434
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764205279434 [Google Scholar]
  34. Taras, David
    1990The Newsmakers: The Media’s Influence on Canadian Politics. Scarborough: Nelson Canada.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Trammell, Kaye D.
    2006 “Blog Offensive: An Exploratory Analysis of Attacks Published on Campaign Blog Posts from a Political Public Relations Perspective.” Public Relations Review32 (4): 402–6. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.09.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.09.008 [Google Scholar]
  36. Trent, Judith S. , and Robert V. Friedenberg
    2008Political Campaign Communication: Principles and Practices. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. West, Darrell M.
    2013Air Wars: Television Advertising and Social Media in Election Campaigns, 1952–2012. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Wicks, Robert H. , and Boubacar Souley
    2003 “Going Negative: Candidate Usage of Internet Web Sites During the 2000 Presidential Campaign.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly80 (1): 128–44. doi: 10.1177/107769900308000109
    https://doi.org/10.1177/107769900308000109 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Canada; negative campaigning; party leaders; Twitter
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error