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Summary: The Campaign Advertising 2016: Referendum on Character white paper was produced by the Political Advertising Resource Center at the University of Maryland. The report synthesizes a content analysis of the 2016 presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Researchers (Ph.D. students and a faculty member) coded the advertisements from Hillary for America, Donald J. Trump for President, and two Super PACs – Priorities USA Action and Rebuilding America Now. The results demonstrated that the 2016 campaign ads represented a referendum on the character of the candidates. Both the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as their Super PACs, attacked the opposition through appeals to fear and anger. The report concluded that the character attacks of the 2016 campaign ads could make governing difficult no matter the outcome of the election.

A summary of this report was published as an article in The Conversation on November 16, 2016. The article was republished by various new sources, including The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate, The Associated Press, The Houston Chronicle, and EconoTimes.

Authors: Dr. Shawn Parry-Giles, Prashanth Bhat, Alyson Farzad-Phillips, Morgan Hess, Lauren Hunter, Nora Murphy, Claudia Serrano Rico, Kyle Stephan, and Gareth Williams