Negative Campaigning works

In New Zealand our political parties are very squeamish about negative campaigning. They shouldn’t be.

We have just seen how a relentless negative campaign can work. Julia Gillard and her supporters crushed Kevin Rudd and the nastier it got the more he squealed. But he is the one on the back bench and Julia Gillard is the one enjoying Kirribilli House. Negative campaigning can and does work:

In any event, negativity does not amount to poor politics. Today Malcolm Fraser is a hero of the leftist-luvvies set and receives standing ovations at taxpayer-funded literary festivals. It was not always so. Fraser took over the Liberal Party leadership in March 1975. He proceeded to become one of the most negative opposition leaders in Australian history. Under Fraser’s leadership, the Coalition defeated numerous Whitlam government bills in the Senate and eventually blocked supply.

In the 1970s, the most authoritative gauge of public opinion was the Morgan Gallup Poll, published in The Bulletin. The last poll taken when Fraser was opposition leader had his approval rating at a mere 29 per cent with a disapproval rating of 53 per cent. The Bulletin headed its report “Fraser’s appeal at record low”. Fraser went on to record the biggest victory in post-World War II Australia – despite campaigning on an ill-thought-through and, at times, contradictory policy agenda.

On ABC News Breakfast yesterday, 7.30 presenter Chris Uhlmann gave vent to the familiar Canberra press gallery refrain that Abbott’s relatively low approval rating might mean he is replaced as Liberal leader. Experienced observers should know that what matters in polling is the party vote – not the leader’s approval rating.


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Pete George

    It can work, and it can backfire. Depends on the people/parties involved, and the situation. Rudd may have always been going to lose, even if the Gillard camp praised him to high heaven.

    Negative campaiging can work eg Bush v Kerry. Actually it’s the main thing they do in the US so we don’t know if positive might work better or not.

    Negative didn’t seem to work so well for the Labour anti campaign last year.

  • Hakim of phut

    The leaders approval rating does matter ,  just ask Prime Minister Don Brash.

  • Petal

    I think you have to factor in that Aussies and Kiwis react differently to an all-out bash.  We don’t seem to like it much.