The effects of tone, focus, and incivility in election debates

David Nicolas Hopmann*, Rens Vliegenthart, Jürgen Maier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has found mixed evidence for the effectiveness of negative campaigning. Therefore, scholars have recently turned their attention to the question whether there are different dimensions of negativity. The present study contributes both empirically and methodologically to this debate by investigating the effects of three German chancellor debates using real-time response measurements of audience reactions. Following Brooks and Geer (2007. “Beyond Negativity: The Effects of Incivility on the Electorate.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00233.x), we distinguish between debate statements along three different dimensions: negative versus positive tone, policy- versus person-focus, and civility versus incivility. Also, we demonstrate how debate content and real-time response measurements of audience reactions can be analysed using econometric time-series techniques. Our analyses show that civil policy-focused statements have a positive impact, as expected, while person-focused or uncivil statements rarely have positive effects. In the concluding section, the implications of our findings are discussed and directions for further research identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-306
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of tone, focus, and incivility in election debates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this