In the 2020 election, many Americans chose to vote due to their hatred of the opposing candidate, rather than their fondness for their chosen politician. A study published in American Political Research seeks to understand the dynamics behind this so-called “negative voting” pattern.
Politics is regularly a field that contains a lot of negativities, but the 2020 American presidential election was particularly difficult and polarizing. Negative voting is a choice made by constituents to vote for a certain candidate, not because they want to support them, but because they do not want their opposing candidate to win.
This is in contrast with voters who vote because they have positive feelings about their own party and their candidate. Though this is not a new concept, it is very prevalent at this point in time with approximately one third of voters in the 2020 election casting a negative vote for president.
Researchers Diego Garzia and Frederico Ferreira da Silva utilized a Computer Assisted Web Interview survey conducted by Qualtrics. It included 1,064 participants to represent the American voting pool. Participants were presented with a direct measure of negative voting, where they were asked if they view their vote as an expression or support for their candidate or opposition for the competing candidate. Votes against are considered negative votes.
Results showed that approximately 30% of participants cast a negative vote. Despite the polarization the 2020 election brought, this is not significantly more than in previous elections. Interestingly, Biden voters were much more likely (39%) to report negative voting than Trump voters (18%).
This is in line with previous research that showed that the incumbent candidate was more often the target of negative voting than the challenger. Negative voting is seen less in people with strong party affiliations and can go as high as 50% among people who swing between parties or identify as independents.
This study sought to revisit the idea of negative voting in regard to the very polarizing 2020 presidential election. Despite the strengths, this study has some limitations. For example, post-electoral surveys can lead to post-election rationalization, which could skew the results. Additionally, online surveys have come under fire many times for potentially being less accurate and being completed less carefully.
The study, “The Electoral Consequences of Affective Polarization? Negative Voting in the 2020 US Presidential Election“, was authored by Diego Garzia and Frederico Ferreira da Silva.