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Category archive for: Politics

Introducing a new Nottingham project on the legacy of dictatorships

Written by Anja Neundorf.

Dr. Anja Neundorf from the School of Politics and International Relations started working on a new project that is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Secondary Data Analysis Initative. This project will study the legacy of past authoritarian regimes on its citizens’ political attitudes today. Here we are talking with Dr. Neundorf about this new research project. Continue reading Introducing a new Nottingham project on the legacy of dictatorships

What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Written by Simon Toubeau.

Although Scottish voters decided to remain part of the UK in September 2014, the question of Scotland’s constitutional future remains an important concern for the Conservative government. Its efforts to deal with this matter have resulted in the ratification of The Scotland Bill in November 2015, which drew on the work of the Smith Commission.

The bill promises to offer an ‘enduring settlement’ that anchors Scotland firmly in the UK. But, in reality, it is another instance of reform that heralds the return of a ‘dual polity’. Continue reading What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Why the polls got it so wrong in the British general election

Written by John Curtice.

Since the surprise result of the British election in May 2015, there has been plenty of speculation about why the opinion polls ahead of the vote were so wrong. On average, they put the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck, when in fact the Conservatives were seven points ahead.

Hard evidence on the reasons for their failure, however has so far been less plentiful. But a new report published today provides important evidence on what really happened.

The report presents the results obtained by the latest instalment of NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes survey, which was conducted face to face between the beginning of July and the beginning of November last year. All 4,328 respondents to the survey were asked whether or not they voted in the May election and, if so, for which party. Continue reading Why the polls got it so wrong in the British general election

2015: the year British politics lost its opposition

Written by Eunice Goes.

Like many election years, 2015 was a strange time for British politics. But the vote, which put the Tories in power, was only the prelude. Things got truly bizarre in the latter half of the year when the opposition stopped showing up for work.

Up until May, 2015 was completely dominated by the electoral campaign. The unpredictability of the election meant that the contest was feverish, at times quite nasty, and pretty relentless.

But then a really strange phase began. On May 7, British voters rewarded the Conservative Party with an unexpected parliamentary majority. Until the results of a shock exit poll were announced just after 10pm, it had looked as though a hung parliament was practically inevitable. Many thought Labour would govern at the head of some complex coalition of parties. Few, if any, predicted the Conservatives would win enough parliamentary seats to govern alone. But win they did, coming away with a majority of 12. Continue reading 2015: the year British politics lost its opposition

Who watches the Watchmen?: The Democratic Debates, CNN and The Fifth Estate

Written by David Porter.

In the aftermath of the First Democratic Debate, CNN gave a resounding endorsement of Hilary Clinton – despite their own evidence to the contrary. And the Berners didn’t let them forget. What does this mean for the future of news?


The Roman poet Juvenal, when he penned his Satires, probably didn’t expect it to still be referenced over 18 centuries later. But oneline in particular has permeated western thought upon the nature of political authority ever since: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Literally translated, it reads ‘Who guards the guardians themselves?’ More popularly, it is reduced to one simple phrase –  Continue reading Who watches the Watchmen?: The Democratic Debates, CNN and The Fifth Estate

Negative Campaigns and their Media Coverage: The Danish Case

Written by Christian Elmelund-Præstekær.

Negative campaigning is a great topic! At least it is one of the few research areas within political science that survives more than a two-minute pitch at family parties. The subject seems to fascinate people – for better and for worse – and my mother, my hairdresser, and my biking comrades all have an opinion about parties’ and politicians’ negative rhetoric. Nevertheless, the first systematic studies of negativity in Denmark were published only seven years ago (Elmelund-Præstekær 2008; Hansen & Pedersen 2008); and still common wisdom, sensational stories, and myths shape everyday conversations about the negative form of political campaigning.

One of the most strong-lived beliefs is that contemporary elections are more negative than historic elections. During the Danish parliamentary election campaign in June 2015, I was called by numerous journalists who wanted an expert’s explanation of the “extraordinary” negativity that was unfolding as we spoke. One of the two most salient cases of negative campaigning was launched by the then-incumbent Social Democratic Party as a direct attack on its main opponent, the chairman of the Liberal Party, Lars Løkke Rasmussen. The campaign asked “who’s gonna pay Løkke’s bills?” referring explicitly to a range of lay-offs in the welfare state, and implicitly but more importantly it referred to Løkke’s prior problems separating his private and professional expenses (see an archived version of the campaign’s web page). Continue reading Negative Campaigns and their Media Coverage: The Danish Case

Negative Campaigning Does It Help Or Does It Hurt?

Written by Annemarie Walter and Cees van der Eijk.

Negative campaigning is a widely applied campaign practice[1] and was part of the 2015 general election campaign. Negative campaigning occurs when a party chooses to focus on criticizing the opponent’s weaknesses instead of advocating own strengths when communicating with voters.[2] A party resorts to attack behaviour in an attempt to become voters’ preferred party by diminishing positive feelings for opposing parties.[3] Practitioners of negative campaigning generally believe it to be a successful campaign tool.[4] However, contrary to popular belief there is little scientific evidence that the practice of negative campaigning is effective.[5]

Whether a party decides to make use of negative campaigning depends on the expected balance between what the party will gain and the risk the party faces. Although negative campaigning has the potential to strengthen parties’ electoral attractiveness, the use of negative campaign messages is not without risk. Attack behaviour can result in negative feelings towards the attacker instead of the target.[6] This is the so-called “backlash” or “boomerang” effect. Therefore, only when the expected benefits outweigh the risks involved parties resort to attack behaviour.[7] Recently, we examined whether the use of negative campaigning helped British parties to improve their electoral attractiveness in the 2015 general election campaign.  Continue reading Negative Campaigning Does It Help Or Does It Hurt?

Negativity: The Campaign Promise That No British Party Kept

By Caitlin Milazzo and Jesse Hammond

The 2015 general election campaign was rife with promises. Amidst those made about immigration, the NHS, and Britain’s relationship with Europe, we also heard repeated pledges from party leaders that their campaigns were – and would remain – positive. The reality, however, was quite different. By the start of the short campaign, many Tories were expressing concern that the party’s negative campaigning was having a detrimental effect on support and would prevent David Cameron from securing a majority in Parliament. Cameron was quick to defend his party’s positive message, but his defence sounded hollow when he went on to warn the public of the potential dangers of an SNP-Labour alliance in the same interview.

Someone listening to that interview might have questioned the Prime Minister’s definition of a negativity. While his statements were arguably not overly personal or derogatory, his message was most certainly negative in that it contained a less-than-flattering message about his party’s opponents – and that is the classic definition of a negative appeal. Discussing your opponent(s) can take many forms. For example, you might refer to their policy positions, qualifications (or lack thereof), or in the case of a sitting MP, to their previous record. But the content is almost always negative in the sense that it focuses on the weaknesses of the opponent. Continue reading Negativity: The Campaign Promise That No British Party Kept

Paul Ryan just accepted the worst job in American politics

Written by Anthony J Gaughan.

Republicans voted overwhelmingly to make Paul Ryan the new speaker of the House of Representatives last week, but the Wisconsin congressman has no reason to celebrate. He just got the worst job in American politics.

In theory, the House speaker is an immensely powerful office. Among other things, the House speaker controls when and whether legislation gets voted on.

But since the late 1980s, the job of House speaker has been a career killer for most of the people who have held the position.

And today the job is harder than ever. Continue reading Paul Ryan just accepted the worst job in American politics

Clinton parries Biden, Benghazi and Bernie Sanders to reclaim pole position

Written by Tom Packer.

After a summer spent dealing with stumbles, weak campaign messaging and surprisingly strong challenges from other candidates, Hillary Clinton suddenly seems to be back in gear.

Following a sterling debate performance that seems to have already improved her poll numbers, which were already high among Democrats, she displayed her remarkable grit at a gruelling all-day hearing before a committee set up to investigate the 2012 attack in which four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya.

The saga over her supposed responsibility for the deaths, which occurred at the end of her tenure as secretary of state, has been unwinding for almost three years. But despite an 11-hour onslaught of sharp personal and political attacks, she skillfully worked to rise above the questions, helping her supporters continue to decry it as a partisan fishing expedition. Continue reading Clinton parries Biden, Benghazi and Bernie Sanders to reclaim pole position