This study examines changes in negative campaigning in the Netherlands between 1981 and 2010. In addition, we examine which factors determine whether political parties are likely to make use of this campaign strategy in the Dutch multi-party system. We advance existing research on negative campaigning in two ways. First of all, this is the most extensive study of negative campaigning in the Netherlands conducted so far and to our knowledge also the most extensive conducted in any multi-party system. Second, our study contributes to the theoretical understanding of the determinants of negative campaigning in a multi-party context by differentiating between parties' vote-seeking and office-seeking incentives, and stating the implications of office-seeking for the use of negative campaigning. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.