Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



Nader, Martin. 2013. Political Hate Machines: Outside Groups and the 2012 Presidential Campaign Advertising Market. PhD Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfilment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Political Science, Under the Supervision of Professor Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Martin James Nader


This dissertation explores the rise of outside groups and their influence in the 2012 presidential campaign advertising market. Unlike official candidates, outside groups are not vulnerable to the potential electoral risks of public backlash for being too negative; therefore, outside groups do not possess the same incentives as official candidates to regulate their use of attack ads. Compared to campaign ads produced by official presidential candidates, ads produced by outside groups are (1) overwhelmingly negative attack ads, (2) utilize a backwards-looking retrospective orientation, and (3) draw heavily on negative emotions like anger, fear and disgust.

Considering the role of outside groups in the 2010 midterm elections and 2012 presidential primaries, it was my expectation that official presidential candidates in the 2012 general election adapted their advertising strategies to balance the anticipated negativity of outside groups. By utilizing more promotional and comparative advertising, official candidates can in effect outsource some of their negativity to outside groups who are willing and able to act, without coordination, as negativity surrogates. In the first presidential election post-Citizens United, however, official candidates did not outsource their attack ads to outside groups. Official candidates were as negative as ever.

Advisor: Elizabeth Theiss-Morse