You Be The Campaign Manager: Which Advertisements Tested Best

October 31, 2012, 12:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 10/26/2012) A national or statewide political campaign runs on television advertisements. To measure the effectiveness of a Presidential campaign means, in large part, measuring the effectiveness of its advertisements.

The Vanderbilt/YouGov Ad Rating Project, a collaboration between YouGov and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University, is a project that lets the people who matter most—ordinary American citizens—rate the political advertisements that have been sweeping the airwaves in the 2012 campaign season. A politically representative sample of 600 Americans rates each ad on topics such as likability, fairness, believability, and whether the ads evoke emotions like hopefulness, happiness, disgust, and anger. Each ad test also includes an oversample of 200 “True Independents”—that is, those who do not identify with either Democrats or Republicans, and when asked in follow-up state that they do not lean toward either party, either.

We tested 23 advertisements so far: 10 from the Romney campaign, 10 from the Obama campaign, 2 from the Romney-leaning American Crossroads Super PAC, 1 from the Obama-supporting Priorities USA Action Super PAC. (We tested one advertisement twice.)

All the data are here, along with YouTube links to each of the advertisements. You be the campaign manager: Based on these results, which advertisements might swing voters into your column, which would best rally the base, which go too far?

One advertisement sticks out as the most effective in breaking through the advertising clutter, as almost half (49%) of the True Independents rate this advertisement Interesting : Romney’s “Right Choice” advertisement.

Several Obama advertisements seem to cross the “too snarky” line with True Independents: the recent “Big Bird” advertisement, as well as Obama’s “Stretch,” “America the Beautiful” and “No Taxes” all scored above 40% in the number of True Independents rating the advertisement Unfair. Only Romney’s “Doing Fine” reached that threshold with 2-in-5 True Independents blowing the whistle on the advertisement as Unfair.

None of the advertisements tested achieved the 40% on leaving True Independents feeling Hopeful. The advertisements that came closest were Obama’s “First Law,” and Romney’s “Too Many Americans” and “A Better Day,” each at 24% Hopeful among True Independents.

Neither campaign’s advertisements are clearly superior in these scores, but reviewing each advertisement’s scores across the 10 measures provides a unique way of reviewing the Presidential campaign as it comes to its bumpy close.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association