Society

Report: Clinton Ran More Negative TV Ads Than Trump

| by Oren Peleg

A new study of the 2016 presidential campaign TV ads has found that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign engaged in more negative advertising than the Trump campaign. The study also found that Clinton lost states in which she didn't run TV ads until the final week of the campaign.

The report "shows the presidential race featured far less advertising than the previous cycle, a huge imbalance in the number of ads across candidates, and one candidate who almost ignored discussions of policy," noted Wesleyan University, where the study was done.

The university also made some points about the nature of the election ad campaigns:

Yet, at the congressional level, political advertising appeared far more ordinary. The authors share lessons about advertising in the 2016 campaign, and argue that its seeming lack of effectiveness may owe to the unusual nature of the presidential campaign with one nonconventional candidate and the other using an unconventional message strategy.

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The study also found that Clinton included little information about policy in her campaign ads.

"Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests," the study reports. About 25 percent of Clinton's ads focused on policy, while roughly 65 percent were personal, and the remaining 10 percent were a combination of the two.  

In December, Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, which Clinton lost, told Vox that Clinton did little to appeal to the Midwestern states' union worker population.

"As far as I know, she didn’t stop at any UAW halls," Peters said. "I probably would have been invited to be with her if she was going to one, and I never got that invitation."

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He also noted, "She didn't do any labor-specific events that I'm aware of. It's pretty rare that you aren't working closely with labor in a campaign, especially for statewide office. I'm sitting right here now, talking to you in the parking lot of the sheet metal workers before their holiday party. I'm going to be with my friends, with the sheet metal workers, to convey that they are important to me by showing up at their events. Labor simply cannot be taken for granted in Michigan. Not doing that sort of event certainly was a major oversight."

"The impact of advertising may depend on the larger media environment and knowledge of the candidates," noted Wesleyan.

The study noted that when the media is full of sensational campaign coverage, and the candidates are well-known, it does not necessarily mean that all advertising will fail.

Wesleyan concluded: "Message matters, and a message repeated endlessly does no good unless it resonates with a sufficient number of the right voters. Team Clinton’s message that Trump was unfit for the presidency may not have been enough."

Sources: Wesleyan University, Vox / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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