What is Duelist Theory? As it has become challenging between left and right-wing parties and the race has turn out to be more competitive it is logical to use various campaign strategies to maximize party’s benefit in election process. We believe that negative communication can be extremely beneficial in a close race.
Skaperdas and Grofman (1995) developed a mathematical and game-theoretic model of negative campaigning called the Duelist Theory. With an adaptation of terminology from Surlin and Gordon they used the term negative campaigning to refer to that which attacks the other candidate personally, the issues for which the other candidate stands, or the party of the other candidate. The Duellist model was developed on some common-sense attributes such as that candidates know where they stand in the polls but do not know future vote shares with certainty, that some voters are undecided, that voters can change their mind over the course of the campaign and even move from support to a position of undecided or vice versa, and that campaigning can matter. A key assumption about political competition was that negative campaigning reduces the support level of the candidate who is attacked and may also reduce the attacking candidate’s own support because of voters who are disgruntled by negative campaigning, at least in the short run
Inspired by the rational choice idea the model tries to decide ideal value maximizing strategies for the different candidates given different levels of support for each of them. Certain logical suggestions can be derived from the analysis. For example, in two candidate competition the front runner will engage in less negative campaigning than the opponent, often the most accurate duelist has a lower probability of survival than the second-best (or even third-best) shooter. The reason for this result is that the optimal strategy of either of the other duelists is to shoot at the duelist who is the best shot. A candidate’s strategy is choosing the amount of positive and negative campaigning to be employed (Skaperdas & Grofman, 1995). More-over, the consensus among political journalists and consultants, even if not backed by evidence that is fully compelling in social science terms, is that “[while] there is room for argument about whether negative ads will damage the system in the long run, there is no argument about their short-term impact, [that] they work and they win elections. Voters pay attention to them” (Ehrenhalt 1985, 2560).
Extracted from the paper: The impact of negative communication on image and reputation by Tony Zohari & John Sehlstedt.
Skaperdas, S. & Grofman, B. (1995) Modelling negative campaigning American Political Science Review, Vol. 89 No. 1, pp. 49-61.