But, as Steve Pearlstein (via The Monkey Cage) points out, the effect of negative campaigning is probably somewhat of a mixed bag:
There is a vigorous academic debate over whether negative advertising depresses or increases voter turnout. I suspect it does both, depressing turnout among moderates and independents while stimulating it at the ideological extremes. In that process, what has changed is the composition of the turnout rather than its overall level.
In large-scale elections, Pearlstein notes,
My guess is that if negative advertising demobilizes the middle but mobilizes the extremes, it does so mainly at the margins.But what about campaigns in which there are nothing but . . . margins.
In the average Red Clay School Board race, in a good year, maybe 2% of eligible voters turn out. In most other districts around the State that turn-out is significantly lower.
Which means that the impact of garbage sites like this one the political process may be quite significant . . . in terms of convincing many parents that the most rational thing they can do in a mud-slinging election is . . . just stay home.