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Negativity Bias: What is it and how it’s used in politics?

In the final two months of 2023, the Australian political landscape was plagued by negative bias campaigning tactics similar to those of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. It is unsurprising, considering that negativity is a core element of their political philosophy. They appear incapable of recognising any positive aspect of their opponents’ policies whatsoever.

Regrettably, political negativity can be a highly effective tool. If enough mud is thrown, some of it will eventually stick. Today’s hard right does not settle for merely a handful of mudslinging; they go for bucketfuls.

For example, the government was targeted by conservative mudslinging when they failed to anticipate the High Court’s ruling on refugees. This failure was shamelessly exploited by Peter Dutton et al, who placed politics above proper political conduct. They prioritised the politics of damaging their opponents over helping to solve an exacting problem.

As night follows day, the Australian right-wing press decided on some good old leader bashing, with the Prime Minister being the target of their excrement. The conversation became about refugees, and Dutton became the superhero of far-right politics.

That the problem demanded some very considered legislation mattered not to an opposition out for the kill. Dutton got what he wanted. A bill well short of considered thought. A bill that wouldn’t survive a High Court challenge.

Dutton was offered a viewing of the legal advice he had received on the subject on Sunday, 3 December, and to this day, they have yet to bother to set their eyes upon it.

Following his inglorious defeat of The Voice referendum using negativity bias, Dutton applied the same tactics to the High Court decision.

Negativity bias is now permanently engrained in what once was an adversarial but fair democracy where lies were said, but consequences risked. Now, lying is tolerated within the endless bounds of ‘Trumpism‘, where truth has negligible importance because negativity and ignorance prevail.

You believe whatever you want. It is unimportant because conservatives and their media tarts reinforce their bullshit all the time.

The Prime Minister and his Ministers must weave into their answers to questions (any question) something that refers to the LNP’s incompetence while in government. Goodness knows there is a mountain of dreadful instances to choose from. Reinforcing the LNP’s failure in office should be an automatic response within any answer.

It is well-known how negative Tony Abbott was in opposition. So much so that it was responsible for him becoming Prime Minister. They called him the best Opposition leader ever. Subsequently, he was a failure in the top job.

We know negative bias works, but how?

Research shows that we react more strongly to negative stimuli. We think about negative things more frequently than positive ones and respond more strongly to adverse events than equally positive ones.

“Research has also shown that people tend to focus more on the negative across a wide array of psychological events as they try to make sense of the world.”

We also tend “to pay more attention to adverse events than positive ones” and learn more from negative outcomes and experiences. We also make decisions based on negative information more than positive data.

The “bad things” grab our attention, stick to our memories, and often influence our decisions. Additionally, studies have shown that:

“… negative news is more likely to be perceived as truthful. Since negative information draws greater attention, it also has greater validity. This is why bad news garners more attention.”


“Differences in negativity bias have also been linked to political ideology. Some research suggests that conservatives may have more robust psychological responses to negative information than social democrats.

Some evidence, for example, has found that people who consider themselves politically conservative are more likely to rate ambiguous stimuli as threatening.”

Such differences in the negativity bias might explain why some people are more likely to value things such as tradition and security. In contrast, others are more open to embracing ambiguity and change.

If you go to the link provided, you will find a more comprehensive explanation of negative bias. However, I have given you something to think about. Moreover, we must all adjust to the fact that negativity plays a vital part in the election of a government. The reality is that a large cohort of folk thrive on scandals. They prosper on negativity. They believe they are always told the truth even when it is demonstrably not the case.

Our only recourse is to tell the truth; sometimes, more is needed. We must remind everyone of how dreadful the Coalition really was.

My thought for the day

Less informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware. Therefore, conservatives feed them all the bullshit they need. The menu generally contains a fair portion of negative bias.

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  1. GL

    P. Duddy: 99% political/racist thug, negativity and shithouse rat level intellect and cunning. The remaining 1% are his bad qualities.

  2. Kathryn

    When a self-serving, megalomaniacal regime – as depraved as the LNP clearly is – continues their determined attempts to take over, manipulate and control EVERY form of media in the country – including OUR taxpayer-owned ABC and SBS – there is a word that aptly describes that type of deviant control, monopolisation and total destruction of democratic impartiality and free speech – it’s called FASCISM. This form of oppression and manipulation of a nation’s media was, as we know, put to very good use by the notorious war criminal, Hitler, before and during WW2! Tragically, that word also perfectly sums up and describes the autocratic thugs, misogynistic predators, pathological liars and unspeakably evil political psychopaths in the LNP to a tee! Australians need to be warned to NEVER EVER allow the dangerously undemocratic, war mongering and totally depraved right-wing extremists in the fascist LNP to rule over us again – EVER!

    If those misguided Australians who believe everything they inhale from the disreputable Murdoch press and are short-sighted enough and foolish enough to choose to support and vote for a self-serving multi millionaire as undemocratic as Peter Dutton, will play a HUGE PART in allowing that uncompromising narcissist to rise like a terrifying Behemoth to dominate, corrupt and devastate our nation once more! Make no mistake about it – Dutton, and the Lying Nefarious Party, will FINISH OFF all the depraved Agenda of the IPA that they didn’t have time to complete under the appalling mismanagement, destruction and $1 TRILLION national deficit left behind through the diabolical corruption, pathological lies, waste and incompetency of the previous Abbott/Morrison regimes! One of the TOP things on the IPA Agenda – which is IDENTICAL to the LNP Agenda – is the non-stop sell-off and ruthless PRIVATISATION of ALL our taxpayer-owned assets, ESPECIALLY the ABC, SBS, ALL our public transport, hospitals, Medicare et al (that has not, as yet, already been privatised and sold off to foreign-owned corporate predators)!

    If Dutton manages to lie his way over the electoral line, he will continue ticking things off the items listed on the horrifying IPA Agenda (refer a link to the IPA/LNP Agenda below and remember that EVERYTHING shown in RED INK has already been achieved by the miscreants in the LNP under the supervision of their neoliberal masters in the IPA). If Dutton and the LNP win another election, they will no doubt feel empowered enough to return immediately to their self-serving rorting, theft and waste of hard-earned taxpayer funds; maintain the LNP’s crawling sycophancy to their multi-billionaire supporters in the non-taxpaying Top 1%; foster their close collaboration with the depraved Murdoch dynasty to continue total control over every form of media in the country in order to muzzle free speech; go ahead with their undemocratic plan to prosecute and jail Australian citizens who choose to publicly protest against the LNP’s astonishing level of corruption and lack of transparency; possibly feel empowered enough to re-introduce yet more heartlessly cruel policies, eg another new version of Morrison’s ILLEGAL and inhumane invention: ROBODEBT. Dutton’s LNP will increase their inhumane efforts to attack, vilify and traumatise the poorest most vulnerable people in our nation and continue to look around for a war – ANY war – to get involved in so that public attention is diverted away from their shocking and escalating level of depravity!

    ANYBODY who is not in the Top 1% can – and most certainly will – become a TARGET for the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance! Those working- and middle-class Australians who are rusted-on supporters of the smug, smirking elitists in the LNP are like turkeys voting for Christmas! If you fit this category = WATCH YOUR BACK!

    IPA agenda to re-shape Australia

  3. wam

    Wow, lord, opposition by name is negative and always has been. Sadly, it was fixed almost permanently, by the rabbott and his right wing media journalists making a bipartisan ‘for the good of the country’ vote a very rare occurence. As for werdna, there are many who agree with his truth. Indeed, a very clever public servant, Hawthorn player and NT squash rep, who voted yes, made the comment that he agrees with tlob’s opinions more than others journalists. He doesn’t read anything but murdoch and doesn’t watch the ABC so I have wondered of whom he is speaking? Probably Sky???? Good to see your positive thought, lord? Do you speak the truth?
    a flat tax on gross earnings????

  4. Canguro

    Kathryn, hear hear, always good to be reminded what an honest appraisal of the smug self-serving apparatchik masquerading as an authentic alternative government looks like in reality. Keep up the fight, too much vitriolic attack against these nasty individuals is never enough, and I truly hope your words are widely disseminated and digested.

    On matters in a similar vein, I see the boy senator James Paterson has offered a view that “the Home Affairs Department was not a “touchy-feely social policy agency or a hippie commune”, in defence of it needing to be a robust organisation [that] “needs at least some hierarchy and control because it’s a dangerous world and there are very real threats to Australians.” For crying out loud, where would he dredge up such comparisons, and what, may one ask, is it about social policy agencies or for that matter hippy communes that he finds objectionable?

    One wonders what wet behind the ears Jimmy Kiddly would have to say if he lived in a country that had actual ongoing terrorism issues or for that matter, hot wars.

  5. andyfiftysix

    Canguro, ““needs at least some hierarchy and control because….” it was a whole lot of hot air that means exactly nothing. It was trying some how to paint labor as wishy washy management.
    For a start, dont trust anyone with thick rimmed glasses and certainly never trust anyone who has never had long hair.
    Boy senator James Paterson is such an obvious career politician. WTF did he know about life before he got into polictics?
    He is either playing the game or is truly a nut case.

  6. Phil Pryor

    If the USA is rotten, and it seems so, then Trump is a big pustule on the end of the USA body as afflicted by a disease of ignorance, denial, stupefying irritation, uneducational malnutrition, sheer wilful and selfish idiocy. Is Australia going much better, with the right wing surges and forces putting Dogshit Dutton up as leader of the Ultra whining right wing, selfish, profiteering, ignorant, conniving, coercing, media driven exploiters and coercers, the Big New Plantation owners and controllers of our DESTINY. Dutton?? DUNG.

  7. Andrew Smith

    It’s a tactic used across the Anglosphere targeting above median age, low info et al. and negativity has an impact, especially when promoting narratives around xenophobia, talking down economy and talking up personal security via RW MSM, nowadays ABC (see News JustIn & ABC News24) and social narratives; relentless banging on about non issues, polls and leadership for a faux or fantasy narratives for the RW while avoiding core issues.

    Meanwhile GOP trained pollster and consultant, Lynton Crosby, has said that negatives move people, positives don’t; there you go.

  8. Lynette

    Terrifying truth. I am left fearing the future when the government is spooked by opposition negativity into further unfair oppression of vulnerable minorities who have already been punished for wrongdoing and are being further punished by heavy surveillance. What if Australian citizens all had to wear ankle bracelets after completing their legal punishments? Would Dutton and his bullies be happy and would ordinary Aussies be safer? Roll on 1984-style surveillance fascist control.

  9. Clakka

    Since man ventured from the primordial slime and the forest to the prairies, and onward, was it separation from the teat, the rejection of bodily warmth or the genetic imperative that drove him? Regardless, these ventures may have opened him to the sear of the unfiltered daylight and the frigid yet beguiling beauty of the glittering night sky. And traveling further to the encounter the foreboding ice-capped mountains and the dark wild and treacherous seas.

    Would he have been drawn to look up pondering his smallness, yet importance, in the vastness? Could he rationalize the babble of his isolated mind? Did his apprehensions cause a recall of all nature’s fearsome beasts he had encountered, and supplant them into both the searing and the frigid cosmos? Forewarned being forearmed, he had now derived explanation for his babble and created reverential fear.

    What to do? Don a tall funny hat, and at every opportunity, pass on his understandings of the world, the universe and everything! Agog, those bearing witness would soon spread the babble and many would come. They would have to make food to feed themselves and him. He would grow tall, but to elevate him closer that he might reconcile better the cosmos, they built edifices.

    He realized his successes by anthropomorphizing the his beasts of the cosmos, and what better image, then that of himself. And so man, and in particular he himself became the top of the stack, with the inaudible, invisible master of the world, the universe and everything, channeled and messaged through him of the tall funny hat. Soon, obeisance demanded that innocence and children be sacrificed, and that opponents, detractors and doubters be eliminated.

    The ritual of shock, awe and babble went on the road. The primordial slime, the forests and trees and the beasts were forsaken, and merely consumed for the purpose of energizing support for those of the men of tall funny hats, or for that matter, any hats.

    And so it continues titivated to today. Even in the face of wise men, the ubiquity of the noble death cult.

  10. Ian Joyner

    Dutton is Australia’s Scrooge — mean spirited and nasty. But at least Scrooge came to an enlightened position at the end. Dutton never will. He led Australia to be a nation of Scrooges (60%). Dutton is Australia’s Mr ‘Bah Humbug’.

    And the 2023 Scrooge of the Year Award goes to … rustle, rustle, rustle. Australia! Yes, Australia proved that it was collectively (well 60%) the most mean-spirited, nasty, petty, narrow-mined group in a referendum.

    Australia showed it was only interested in the short-term, immediate present. In Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, Scrooge is made to see the past, present, and future. At the end of the story, Scrooge’s eyes are opened and he promises “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The spirits of all three shall strive within me.”

    Australia showed it is only interested in its short-term current interests. The wrongs of the past are ignored, and Australians do not think about the future, correcting those wrongs.

    The past affects where we are now. We control the future by what we do now.

    Warren Mundine epitomised ignoring the past when he said “You can’t change the past”. This gave people permission to ignore the past, to ignore the wrongs of the past and to think we had no responsibility to make amends for the atrocities, massacres, or cruelty of the past. How dare Mundine give white people an excuse to not think about what happened to his people.

    The no case in the referendum encouraged people to stay ignorant and vote no.

    We thus ignored the future. What we do now can make a better or worse future. Australia decided on a worse future.

    Scrooge said “Bah! Humbug!” to Christmas. This was what the referendum no case, led by Peter Dutton was. Dutton led the “Bah! Humbug!” Case. 2023 Bah Humbug Award goes to … rustle, rustle, rustle: Peter Dutton. Watch Scrooge McDutton on everything else in parliament, always mean, always nasty, anything positive and Dutton and his Liberals are shouting “bah humbug” across the floor.

  11. LambsFry Simplex.

    It’s an old story in Australia. In my era, I think from the Dismissal and the sneaky introduction of neo liberalism, capitalism botoxed for the plebs who can still hit back at failed oligarchs by kicking them out at elections; necessary enablers for system enabling. Finally, the creeping tabloid msm monster with $billionf support as back ground.

  12. Terence Mills

    It’s not all gloom and despondency.

    I hear that SKY have dropped Cori Bernardi from their egregious line up after dark : even Newscorp can recognise drivel when it comes in big licks from the likes of Bernardi.

    Long way to go for Lachlan still got to hose out Rowan Dean, Piers Morgan, Paul Murray, Sharri Markson, Andrew Bolt, Rita Panahi and that’s just for starters. Bit like the labour of Hercules and cleaning out the Augean Stables

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