Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 14 > Issue 1

Political Awareness, Microtargeting of Voters, and Negative Electoral Campaigning

Burkhard C. Schipper, Department of Economics, University of California Davis, USA, bcschipper@ucdavis.edu Hee Yeul Woo, Jinhe Center for Economic Research, Xi'an Jiaotong University, PR China, wooheeyeul@xjtu.edu.cn
Suggested Citation
Burkhard C. Schipper and Hee Yeul Woo (2019), "Political Awareness, Microtargeting of Voters, and Negative Electoral Campaigning", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 14: No. 1, pp 41-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00016066

Published: 11 Jan 2019
© 2019 B. C. Schipper and H. Y. Woo
Economic Theory:Game Theory,  Game Theoretic Models,  Elections,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Uncertainty
Electoral competitioncampaign advertisingmultidimensional policy spacetargeted advertisingdog-whistle politicsnegative campaigningpersuasion gamesunawarenessunknown unknownsproportional modelmajoritarian model

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In this article:
The Role of Political (Un)Awareness and Electoral Competition
The Role of Microtargeting Voters
The Role of Political Reasoning Abilities
A Positive Role of Negative Campaigning
Proportional Elections and Negative Campaigning
Conclusions and Related Literature
Appendix: Formal Details and Proofs


We study the informational effectiveness of electoral campaigns. Voters may not think about all political issues and have incomplete information with regard to political positions of candidates. Nevertheless, we show that if candidates are allowed to microtarget voters with messages then election outcomes are as if voters have full awareness of political issues and complete information about candidates' political positions. Political competition is paramount for overcoming voters' limited awareness of political issues but unnecessary for overcoming just uncertainty about candidates' political positions. Our optimistic results break down if microtargeting is not allowed or voters lack political reasoning abilities. In such cases, negative campaigning comes to rescue, at least in the majoritarian model.