Obama’s Ads Are Working; Romney’s, Not So Much
Day in and day out, in battleground states across the country, voters are seeing ads like the one above. The messages they’re absorbing from this advertising onslaught have an enormous impact, relatively speaking. Yet while the candidates’ speeches on the campaign trail are covered and dissected exhaustively, the impact of the ads is far less examined, as it’s almost impossible for reporters to gauge the strategy behind their dissemination and the role they’re playing in candidates’ fortunes. A fascinating recent Politico story did much to reveal the different Romney and Obama ad-buying strategies, but the content and effectiveness of the ads remains difficult to evaluate.
A new study aims to bring some clarity to that muddle. A market-research firm called Qualtrics, working with public-opinion shop Evolving Strategies, did a controlled experiment testing the reactions of independent and persuadable voters to ads from Romney, Obama, and a Republican super PAC. They found that Obama’s ads were working to sway swing voters, while Romney’s were not — and the Koch Brothers-backed GOP super PAC, Americans for Prosperity, didn’t help Romney either.
The study exposed 2,300 voters to Romney and Obama ads on three themes — Medicare, economic plans, and economy-based attacks on the other candidate — as well as the Americans for Prosperity ad, “Disappointed.” A control group didn’t see any ads. All the respondents were either pure independents or weak partisans; none were strong Democrats or Republicans.