February 15, 2013 by Adam Schaeffer
A great article about the digital and other problems on the Right has been making the rounds. In particular, the firm Red Edge properly receives the bulk of the print and color in the piece. Bret Jacobson and Ian Spencer are very intelligent, extremely hardworking and knowledgeable guys.
But the piece misses what I think is the most important problem for the Right: the absence of applied political science research, running randomized, controlled experiments in the field and online in the “lab.”
The Left dominated in 2012 for a number of reasons, but two stand out; superior technology and a deeper understanding of voter psychology.
Our mission at Evolving Strategies is to bring the political psychology and political behavior revolution to the Right. We help people understand voters and learn how to communicate with them effectively.
At Evolving Strategies, we think that catching up on the technological front is the much easier task, but understanding voter psychology is the more difficult and important task. I think the most important advantage on the Left is a pervasive culture of experimental testing and accountability. The Right needs a scientific revolution, not just a digital revolution.
For instance, we conducted a controlled PocketTrial® experiment testing 3 Romney ads of different themes paired with 3 Obama ads (separate and together) about one month prior to the election. We found the Romney ads comprehensively ineffective at persuasion and the Obama ads generally effective at persuasion. (See report.)
In other words, Romney’s core messages just did not work. Obama’s did. The Romney campaign could have been on Reddit and everywhere else they needed to be, but it would make little difference to the outcome because their messages were not persuasive.
Tech is a tool. A potentially very powerful tool. And the Right is at a disadvantage without the best tools. But all the tech and digital tools in the world are still only a means for delivering a message or information to particular voters. If the message you’re delivering is ineffective crap, then all you’ll be doing is more efficiently spreading ineffective crap around the interwebs.
The Right needs better tools. But the best tools in the world don’t make you a master mechanic . . . you need to understand how an engine works, how each piece of a car hangs together or can fall apart in order to figure out what’s wrong and get things running and on the road.