Mudslinging is a political tactic based around attacking the character and/or current and/or past behavior of one's opponents. Its name comes from the metaphor of throwing dirt or mud at an individual in order to give him or her a dirty, undesirable appearance - often through no fault of his own.
Mudslinging generally has little to do with the substantive issues that ought to decide elections, and alert voters will generally recognise it for what it is and disfavor the mudslinger rather than the target of the slung mud. Nevertheless, mudslinging campaigns can be successful, especially if they have the backing of the media, in damaging candidates' electability.
Mudslinging is most effective in an election with only two candidates, since even a successful mudslinging campaign says nothing positive about the mudslinger. If there are more than two candidates, voters who are persuaded by mud slung by candidate A at candidate B might just as well vote for candidate C or D as candidate A. They might even be less likely to vote for candidate A if significant portions of his time have been spent defaming candidate B rather than explaining why he (candidate A) is the best choice. For this reason, mudslinging is perhaps a more promising electoral tactic in the United States than in multi-party countries such as Great Britain or Spain, although human nature suggests that some level of mudslinging is likely to be encountered wherever there is democracy.
Mudslinging is also known as negative campaigning.
- Smear campaign - This is a more media-led version.