As Ad Spending Soars To New Records, Research Finds Uncommitted Voters Attracted to Different Appeals From Candidates
PROVO, Utah - Qualtrics, the company that makes sophisticated research simple, along with Evolving Strategies, the firm leading a paradigm shift in public opinion research, announced the results of the most comprehensive test of the impact that this year’s political ad war has had on swing voters. Seven television ads aired by both candidates in their Presidential campaigns were tested in a double-blind, fully controlled PocketTrial™ experiment. Full results can be found here: https://www.qualtrics.com/docs/PresidentialAdWarTest.pdf
The experiment identified the impact of this year’s record-breaking broadcast spending, showing a significant influence on American voters. Findings revealed that Obama ads consistently shift candidate preference (swing voters), but Romney ads significantly increase enthusiasm among Republican-leaning voters, which could yield a much higher turnout for him on Election Day.
More was spent on television ads this year than in any Presidential race in history, with a combined total of more than $544 millionbetween the Democrats and Republicans to date. Fueled by record fundraising this election season, that total is expected to soar to $1.1 billion.
The research exposed swing voters to one or more of several ads and then asked them to complete a Qualtrics survey after watching. Some respondents entered a Placebo-Control group and didn’t watch any ads before the survey. Evolving Strategies doesn’t believe in asking respondents what they think about an ad, but measures the true causal impact instead. A PocketTrial™ quantifies the true impact of a message using a double-blind, fully controlled experimental design made possible by the sophisticated, yet intuitive Qualtrics research platform. It’s like a small-scale clinical drug trial, but for ad testing.
“Candidates are spending more money than ever before in an attempt to reach new voters, influence existing ones and ultimately, get them all to the polls,” said Ryan Smith, CEO and co-founder of Qualtrics. “By using the Qualtrics platform, Evolving Strategies was able to analyze and reveal significant findings unlike ever before. The research provided immediate and valuable insight into how these ads are moving voters differently.”
This unparalleled research showcases how political ads are significantly impacting voter psychology and behavior, however, not necessarily the way the Obama and Romney campaigns had anticipated. In addition to predicting less support but potentially more voter turnout for Romney, other key findings include:
- Obama’s ads increase his vote by about 6 points on average – a 15% bump in Obama’s vote.
- Romney’s ads decrease his vote by about 8 points – an 18% slide in Romney’s vote.
- Obama ads increase the percentage of marginal undecided and wavering voters who prefer him.
- Romney and Obama ads increase the highest level of voter enthusiasm of ’08 McCain voters by 13 points – a 42% surge in the number of McCain ’08 voters who are extremely enthusiastic to vote this year.
- Enthusiasm for ’08 Obama voters remains flat.
- Romney ads impact marginal, decided voters, increasing the likelihood that voters who say they prefer him will actually turn out to vote.
“Voter behavior isn’t simple, and neither is the impact of campaign advertising,” said Adam Schaeffer, director of research & co-founder of Evolving Strategies. “We’re thrilled to work with Qualtrics, which allows us to easily create complicated experimental designs that delve deeply into voter psychology and clarify what moves which voters.
Qualtrics offers an online platform for gathering market intelligence and insights in real-time, and storing that data in a central location where companies can easily update, analyze, and share it across the entire enterprise. Earlier this year, the company announced a $70 million investment from global venture capital firms Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital, the largest joint investment ever by these two firms.
Qualtrics makes sophisticated research simple. The company is a worldwide leader in enterprise data collection and analysis with a survey-based platform that is easy enough for an intern, but sophisticated enough for a Ph.D. Global organizations and research firms of all types and sizes use Qualtrics software to make better decisions based on strategic research intelligence. Founded in 2002, Qualtrics has more than 4,000 enterprise customers including 600 universities worldwide, all of the top business schools, and half the Fortune 100. For more information and a free trial, visit www.qualtrics.com.
About Evolving Strategies
Evolving Strategies is leading a paradigm shift in public opinion research, integrating opinion and behavioral research in an experimental framework. We use online surveys, double-blind, controlled experiments, and creative research designs to discover what really moves people. Our core PocketTrial™ is like your own small-scale clinical drug trial, but it’s your messagewe’re testing.
You deserve more than a focus group dressed up with dials or the same old survey. ES delivers the snapshot of a standard poll, the color & insight of a focus group, and the movement & certainty that’s missing from both. Learn more at evolving-strategies.com.
All respondents were randomly assigned to one of 11 “conditions,” either a Control group or one of 10 Treatment groups. They otherwise answered the same survey questions in an identical survey instrument. The order in which the ads were presented to respondents in the combined treatment conditions was randomized, as were other questions and responses where appropriate. The sample was drawn from an opt-in panel to approximate the 2008 electorate in the CCES 2008 validated dataset (non-strong partisans only) on education, age, gender, and race. All respondents were screened to be registered, pure independents and weak partisans. The PocketTrial™ survey experiment included 2,384 respondents and was fielded from Sept. 28-Oct. 3.
Respondents were randomly assigned (within Party identification blocks) to one of eleven conditions in a true experiment – ten treatment groups and a control:
Respondents were not exposed to either ad before the policy and election questions were answered.
Medicare Ad Conditions
Economic Attack Ad Conditions
Comprehensive “Plan” Ad Conditions
AFP “Disappointed” Ad Condition
Respondents viewed a widely-aired ad produced by American for Prosperity, in which Obama voters express their disappointment with the President.
Political Ad “Treatments”:
- Romney-Medicare adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YfWaERDyS0
- Obama-Medicare adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2egu76D6RtE
- Romney-Economic Attack adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erT_1axOAHo
- Obama- Economic Attack adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn04p9-yXHY
- Romney-Plan adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFQAZYZrjVU
- Obama-Plan adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVe_7kTTdQ
- AFP-Disappointed adhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jl41JUXi9lU
Impact analysis was conducted using multinomial logistic regression models, which included variables for treatment interactions, treatment/gender or ’08 vote choice interactions as well as party identification, liberal/conservative self-identification measures, age group, attention to the news, and being “born-again.” Predicted probabilities are adjusted to match the ’08 vote, by gender, in the CCES 2008 validated dataset. All percentages are predicted probabilities based on the marginal impact of each treatment. Significance was determined using a pairwise comparison of outcomes in Treatment conditions to the Control condition for all respondents or by gender and/or ’08 vote.