Positive and negative campaigning in primary and general elections

Dan Bernhardt, Meenakshi Ghosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyze primary and general election campaigning. Positive campaigning builds a candidate's reputation; negative campaigning damages a rival's. Each primary candidate hopes to win the general election; but failing that, he wants his primary rival to win. We establish that general elections always feature more negative campaigning than positive, as long as reputations are easier to tear down than build up. In contrast, if the effects of primary campaigns strongly persist, primary elections always feature more positive campaigning than negative. This reflects that a primary winner benefits only from his positive primary campaigning in general elections, and negative campaigning by a rival hurts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-104
Number of pages7
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Challenger
  • Contest
  • General election
  • Incumbent
  • Negative and positive campaigning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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