“Experimenters are the shocktroops of science.”

Max Planck

Romney/Ryan Ad Impact on Swing Voters

An online message experiment testing the impact of Romney/Ryan ads on weak partisan & pure independent voters.

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Romney/Ryan Ad Impact on Swing Voters

How do swing voters respond to Ryan’s introduction to the Republican ticket? Does Ryan help or hurt Romney? These questions are impossible to answer with traditional surveys. To answer these questions, we executed a Romney/Ryan PocketTrial testing the impact of pro and anti-Romney ads on swing voters.

Our findings turn the “war on women” logic on it’s head; male swing voters look like the ones who could decide this election. Men seem highly susceptible to advertising, and women much more stable in their opinions and vote-choice. The campaigns would do well to concentrate on courting men, not women.

(See the summary report here, view the “Pro-Romney” ad, or view the “Anti-Romney” ad.)

We exposed more than 1,000 weak partisans and pure independents to current political ads, both negative and positive, featuring the Romney/Ryan ticket (August 14-17th). Respondents were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in a true experiment – three treatment groups and a control.  Statistical analyses were performed to identify significant “treatment” impacts.

Female swing voters do not shift significantly to either the “Pro-Romney” ad or the attack ad alone.

  • Neither Presidential nor Congressional vote preferences shift significantly.
  • Favorable/Unfavorable ratings do not shift significantly for Obama or Romney.

Male swing voters respond strongly to the “Pro-Romney” ad on it’s own, but the attack ad appears ineffective on its own.

  • The “Pro-Romney” ad boosts Romney’s share of the vote 13 points, from 41 to 54 percent. Obama’s share also drops 12 points, from 48 to 36 percent.
  • The “Anti-Romney” ad significantly decreases Romney’s vote by 9 points, from 41 to 32 percent.

The same pattern holds for the generic Congressional vote, with women much more stable, and men responding very positively to the “Pro-Romney” ad.

  • The “Pro-Romney” ad increases the Republican Congressional vote 15 points, from 35 to 50 percent.
  • The “Pro-Romney” ad decreases the Democratic Congressional vote 8 points, from 41 to 33 percent.
  • The “Anti-Romney” ad is not effective in decreasing the Republican or increasing the Democratic Congressional vote.

Contrary to the conventional narrative, it seems that Gov. Romney and President Obama have more to gain targeting men than they do by targeting women.

’08 Vote-Adjusted Impact on the Vote

Here we have weighted our data to match the the Cooperative Congressional Election Study’s voter-file validated vote share for Obama and McCain in 2008, by gender. These predicted vote shares better approximate the impact on likely voters for this fall.

We can see that the same general pattern holds, with the male vote much more volatile than the female vote. But there is more going on when respondents watch both ads.

  • When Male voters see both the “Pro-Romney” and “Anti-Romney” ads, Romney goes from parity with Obama to a slight advantage.
  • When Female voters see both the “Pro-Romney” and “Anti-Romney” ads, Romney goes from a slight advantage with Obama to a disadvantage.

The same pattern holds for the generic Congressional vote, with women much more stable, men responding very positively to the “Pro-Romney” ad, and a shift to one side when viewing both ads.

  • When Male voters see both the “Pro-Romney” and “Anti-Romney” ads, the Republican Congressional vote goes from parity with Democrats to an advantage.
  • When Female voters see both the “Pro-Romney” and “Anti-Romney” ads, the Republican Congressional vote goes from a slight advantage with Democrats to a significant disadvantage.