Political ads in 2016

Each year, people will be inundated with Super Bowl ads on that day, but political ads will continue for almost the rest of the year.  Candidates have used ads in an attempt to influence voters for decades.  They have been credited with helping contenders win or lose.  Many Americans can remember certain ads that have been etched in their consciousness. 

Some of the most memorable: Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” ad, where it was implied that Barry Goldwater would start WWIII.  This ad is credited with helping Johnson defeat Goldwater in the 1964 election.  Another of the most effective ads was Ronald Reagan’s 1984 commercial “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” which was both patriotic and inspirational.  The Swift Boat ad, aired in August 2004, featured 13 people who claimed to have served with John Kerry and questioned Kerry's war record, honesty, and loyalty to his fellow servicemen, helping boost George W. Bush.  Hillary Clinton’s 3 AM ad, released during the 2008 campaign, was about the person most qualified to lead the country during a world crisis.

Fast-forward to the current 2016 campaign, where Qualtrics, the world’s leading enterprise survey platform, and Evolving Strategies, a clinical data science firm, announced results from the first clinical trial testing the effectiveness of Republican primary ads.  They examined three ads of the top two Republican presidential candidates.  The study surveyed over 1,200 Republican respondents, approximating the registered voter population for age, gender, and education.  Each respondent answered the same questions and had the exact same experience until all of them were randomly assigned in the middle of the survey to view one of four videos:

American Thinker interviewed Mike Maughan, the head of Qualtrics about the results.

The findings are interesting since the summary came out before the Iowa caucus.  Looking at Ted Cruz’s ad promoting his immigration and economic views, Maughan’s company found that the middle class viewed it positively – Trump’s support dropped nationally by 10 points, and Cruz’s support jumped 8 points.  Yet with blue-collar voters, this ad lost Cruz 3 points and was a +1 for Trump.

Ted Cruz’s negative ad had the reverse effect.  The findings according to Maughan were that the ad actually developed support for Trump nationally, nearly doubling it among blue-collar voters.  He told American Thinker, “The net difference had a massively negative impact.  There was a very slight increase among the middle class, dropping Trump support by four points, but the decreases were major among the blue-collar voters.  Cruz’s attack on Trump’s ‘New York values’ ad does not boost support for Cruz with the middle class; it simply causes a loss of support for Trump.  What’s more, Cruz’s attacks actually boost support for Trump among blue-collar voters, especially among blue-collar men.”

The ad by Trump concerning his views on the issues appears to not help him much in gaining votes.  Maughan noted, “An ad advocating for Trump does not shift votes his way.  However, the same ad does move voters away from Cruz.  Trump’s ad decimates middle-class support for Cruz, dropping the senator by 7 points.”

Cruz would disagree.  In an interview with ABC News, he credited his attack on polling frontrunner Donald Trump’s “New York” values" as a game-changer in Iowa.  When asked about this, Maughan responded, “Iowa does have retail campaigning of shaking hands and meeting people, but we stand by our data results.  People think they always know better because they have an aversion to the data finding.”

As the primaries move forward and the larger states come into focus, will the candidates’ ads play a larger role in swaying voters as opposed to the smaller states of Iowa and perhaps New Hampshire, where legwork became important?  It will be interesting to see if the ads have an impact on support, whether the message changes, and if the enthusiasm for a particular candidate decreases or increases.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

Each year, people will be inundated with Super Bowl ads on that day, but political ads will continue for almost the rest of the year.  Candidates have used ads in an attempt to influence voters for decades.  They have been credited with helping contenders win or lose.  Many Americans can remember certain ads that have been etched in their consciousness. 

Some of the most memorable: Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” ad, where it was implied that Barry Goldwater would start WWIII.  This ad is credited with helping Johnson defeat Goldwater in the 1964 election.  Another of the most effective ads was Ronald Reagan’s 1984 commercial “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” which was both patriotic and inspirational.  The Swift Boat ad, aired in August 2004, featured 13 people who claimed to have served with John Kerry and questioned Kerry's war record, honesty, and loyalty to his fellow servicemen, helping boost George W. Bush.  Hillary Clinton’s 3 AM ad, released during the 2008 campaign, was about the person most qualified to lead the country during a world crisis.

Fast-forward to the current 2016 campaign, where Qualtrics, the world’s leading enterprise survey platform, and Evolving Strategies, a clinical data science firm, announced results from the first clinical trial testing the effectiveness of Republican primary ads.  They examined three ads of the top two Republican presidential candidates.  The study surveyed over 1,200 Republican respondents, approximating the registered voter population for age, gender, and education.  Each respondent answered the same questions and had the exact same experience until all of them were randomly assigned in the middle of the survey to view one of four videos:

American Thinker interviewed Mike Maughan, the head of Qualtrics about the results.

The findings are interesting since the summary came out before the Iowa caucus.  Looking at Ted Cruz’s ad promoting his immigration and economic views, Maughan’s company found that the middle class viewed it positively – Trump’s support dropped nationally by 10 points, and Cruz’s support jumped 8 points.  Yet with blue-collar voters, this ad lost Cruz 3 points and was a +1 for Trump.

Ted Cruz’s negative ad had the reverse effect.  The findings according to Maughan were that the ad actually developed support for Trump nationally, nearly doubling it among blue-collar voters.  He told American Thinker, “The net difference had a massively negative impact.  There was a very slight increase among the middle class, dropping Trump support by four points, but the decreases were major among the blue-collar voters.  Cruz’s attack on Trump’s ‘New York values’ ad does not boost support for Cruz with the middle class; it simply causes a loss of support for Trump.  What’s more, Cruz’s attacks actually boost support for Trump among blue-collar voters, especially among blue-collar men.”

The ad by Trump concerning his views on the issues appears to not help him much in gaining votes.  Maughan noted, “An ad advocating for Trump does not shift votes his way.  However, the same ad does move voters away from Cruz.  Trump’s ad decimates middle-class support for Cruz, dropping the senator by 7 points.”

Cruz would disagree.  In an interview with ABC News, he credited his attack on polling frontrunner Donald Trump’s “New York” values" as a game-changer in Iowa.  When asked about this, Maughan responded, “Iowa does have retail campaigning of shaking hands and meeting people, but we stand by our data results.  People think they always know better because they have an aversion to the data finding.”

As the primaries move forward and the larger states come into focus, will the candidates’ ads play a larger role in swaying voters as opposed to the smaller states of Iowa and perhaps New Hampshire, where legwork became important?  It will be interesting to see if the ads have an impact on support, whether the message changes, and if the enthusiasm for a particular candidate decreases or increases.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.