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John Geer - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

John Geer

Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Science | Vanderbilt University


National expert in political campaigns, political advertising and public opinion. Co-directs the Vanderbilt Poll.



John Geer Publication John Geer Publication



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Republicans: Open Convention / Trump & Media Tennessee stands at a political crossroads: Vanderbilt Poll



John G. Geer is Dean of the College of Arts and Science. Geer earned his PhD from Princeton University (1986), securing his BA from Franklin and Marshall College (1980). Geer has published 5 books and over 20 articles on presidential politics and elections, and recently served as Editor of The Journal of Politics (2005-2009). His most recent book is In Defense of Negativity: Attacks Ads in Presidential Campaigns published by the University of Chicago Press, which won the Goldsmith Book prize from Harvard University (2008). He has provided extensive commentary in the news media on politics, including live nation wide interviews for FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, and NPR. Geer has also written op-ed pieces for Politico, The Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, and Chicago Tribune. His lecturing has earned him a number of awards at Vanderbilt, including the "Squirrel Award," the 2004 Birkby Prize, the 2005 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award, and the 2009 Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for teaching excellence. Geer is currently working on a series of projects that looks at the news media's coverage of attack advertising and how negativity may help voters make better choices.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Opinion Poll

Campaign Advertising


Tennessee Politics


Political Campaigns

Political Advertising

Education (3)

Princeton University: Ph.D. 1986

Princeton University: M.A. 1982

Franklin and Marshall College: B.A. 1980

Affiliations (1)

  • The Journal of Politics : Editorial/Advisors Board

Selected Media Appearances (10)

After 1st term, Gov. Lee unopposed in GOP primary election

AP News  online


“Bill Lee has been popular during his time as governor. He started out in the low 60s, but it’s kind of moved down now to mid the mid to high 50s ... which most governors would covet immediately,” said John Geer, a Vanderbilt University dean who co-directs the school’s public policy poll.

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As right-wing violence spreads, Republicans duck responsibility

Los Angeles Times  online


And those people “show up in huge numbers in primaries,” said Vanderbilt University political scientist professor John Geer. Many lawmakers worry far more about angering primary voters than about the general election since the lion’s share of congressional districts aren’t competitive in general elections, Geer said.

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A Deadly Political Divide

U.S. News & World Report  online


For many vaccine-reluctant or vaccine-hostile Republicans, "it's Big Brother meets 'Lord of the Flies,'" says John Geer, a Vanderbilt University professor and co-director of a recent Vanderbilt University poll showing a deep partisan divide on vaccines and the danger of the pandemic. That survey found that 74% of Republicans agreed with the statement that the pandemic "is largely over and things should go back to the way they were," while 14% of Democrats agreed.

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Joe Biden Leads in 9 Swing States Over Trump With 20 Days Until Election

Newsweek  online


If Trump takes all the states likely to go Republican and Biden takes the Democratic ones, the president will have 125 electoral college votes to Biden's 212, according to The New York Times. Florida would give Trump another 29 votes, keeping him in the race, but if Biden takes it, he would be less than 30 votes away from the 270 needed to win. "Trump has to carry Florida," John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, previously told Newsweek. "I don't see the path forward in the [electoral] college without Florida."

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Five things to watch in the first Trump-Biden debate

Reuters  online


John Geer, an expert on voter opinion at Vanderbilt University, wonders if Trump will react poorly to sharp or unfriendly queries from moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. “Will Trump have a tough time answering non-softball questions?” Geer said.

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Former Gov. Bill Haslam won't run for US Senate, saying it is not his calling

Tennessean  online


For the second time in 21 months , Gov. Bill Haslam has declined to run for the U.S. Senate, the Knoxville Republican said in an exclusive letter submitted to the USA TODAY Network-Tennessee.

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Despite bipartisan sheen, Trump's speech spoke to his base

Reuters  online


“There is no reason to think he wants unity. He thrives on disunity,” said John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University. “The president may call for working together, but past behavior suggests otherwise.”

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A Crucial Senate Race in Tennessee Is Coming Down to the Wire

TIME  online


“Statewide, [Blackburn] has never carved a very popular figure,” said John Geer, Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University and political science professor. “She’s not well-liked, even within Republican circles.” Geer noted Tennessee Republicans have for years gravitated towards more centrist Republicans, like Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander (and Howard Baker before them), as well as Gov. Bill Haslam, who demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle — something he says Blackburn lacks.

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Democrats’ new bet: boring can win

Vox  online


“There are two parts of Trump,” says John Geer, who directs Vanderbilt University’s political polling. “One part is the anger in the rural areas about ‘Make American Great Again.’ The other part is [Trump’s] incivility — that part people don’t like.”

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Tennessee Senate race: Bredesen and Blackburn deadlocked in new poll

CNN  online


The bottom line is that Tennessee's Senate race will be determined by which candidate is better able to turn out their base, as well as any national waves that occur—blue or otherwise," said John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science.

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Selected Articles (4)

Rethinking the Concept of Negativity: An Empirical Approach

Political Research Quarterly

Keena Lipsitz, John G. Geer

2017 Over the last twenty years, there has been a tremendous amount written on “negativity” in political campaigns. Yet, there is a conceptual disconnect between the definition of negativity used by researchers and how citizens define negativity. In this article, we show how large this disparity is and what its consequences are.

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Negativity, Information, and Candidate Position-Taking

Political Communication

John G. Geer & Lynn Vavreck


2016 The purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of how negativity affects voters’ assessments of the positions candidates take on issues. We argue that the inferences people make about candidates’ positions on issues differ depending on whether the information they encounter comes from attack or self-promotional statements.

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Courting the Women’s Vote: The Emotional, Cognitive, and Persuasive Effects of Gender-Based Appeals in Campaign Advertisements

Political Behavior

Cindy D. Kam, Allison M. N. Archer, John G. Geer


2016 In this paper, we examine the ways in which citizens emotionally react to and cognitively process campaign advertisements that contain group-based appeals. Specifically, we focus on the emotional, cognitive, and persuasive effects of three campaign ads aired during the 2012 election campaign that contained explicit appeals to women voters.

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The News Media and the Rise of Negativity in Presidential Campaigns

PS: Political Science & Politics

John G. Geer


2012 Negative ads have become increasingly common in presidential campaigns. Figure 1 well illustrates this point (see also West 2009). The upcoming 2012 elections will almost surely augment this upward trend of more and more negativity.

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