Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type



Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Wolak


Despite the vast research on the impact of negative political ads, little is known about their effects on systemic beliefs. The overall image that emerges from the literature is negative: negative ad exposure decreases public mood, external political efficacy, and trust in government. However, the spectrum of negative ads has been compressed into a broad category of ‘negative ads’ in the majority of these studies. This study examines the effects of different types of negative ad exposure on these measures of systemic beliefs through a web-based survey. An analysis of the responses yields partially confirms previously accepted conclusions about negative ads: purely negative ads increase negative public moods, while contrast ads decrease negative public moods. With trust in government and political efficacy showing no effects of ad exposure, the study adds nuance to our understanding of how sensitive systemic beliefs are to negative political ads. This study is part of a growing body of research on negative political ads. By using subcategories of negative ads and discovering the implications of voter attributes on ad effects, this project will contribute to future research.