Anti-Trump adverts goal conservatives with various levels of success
The US election season is longer than that of its Democratic counterparts around the world. This year, however, there was a category of political advertising that some experts believe is unique: third-party ads designed to deter conservative voters from re-electing incumbent Republican President Donald Trump.
While these ads are widely distributed online and through targeted TV purchases across the country, experts disagree on how effectively they change voting behavior. Some of the spots may appeal to a conservative view, but others may be more effective at mobilizing left-wing volunteers than actually winning the hearts and minds.
The Lincoln Project, one of the leading sources of such advertising, was launched by a group of current and former Republicans with the goal of "defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box," the founders wrote in the New York Times when the organization started at the end of 2019. "We must contain the damage he and his supporters are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character," they continued.
In the past nine months, the group has posted dozens of video ads attacking Trump, his character and his record. Most focus on pushing Americans to vote against the president and the politicians who support him. The Lincoln Project did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Sukki Yoon, Professor of Marketing at Bryant University, examines how consumer behavior changes depending on political orientation. Using the scope of his research over the past few years, he said the way the Lincoln Project framed many of its advertisements in a conservative outlook.
Win America Back PAC, which was founded by three Hollywood film producers in August, is not as successfully approaching the same electoral segment, according to Yoon. The PAC aims to "create simple, clear, cinematic displays that cut through Trump's fog of disinformation and restore the clarity of reality," according to the mission statement.
The PAC was responsible for an anti-Trump ad that went viral last week and had more than 4 million views on Twitter at the time of publication: a 90-second ad that framed the election as an interview. It was only the second ad published by the organization that dropped three more ads on Sunday, two days before the election, one of which received more than 37,000 views.
Liberals and conservatives "tend to process compelling messages in radically different ways," said Yoon. Through his research, he has observed and written about this in two ways. Similar to an argument between nature and care, conservatives are more likely to respond to a message that uses an internal explanation for a person's actions. For example, "a person is bad" and has committed a crime instead of attributing the actions to the person's surroundings, he said.
Second, Yoon said that conservatives respond better to "why" arguments that focus on the desirability of the promoted item. Liberals, on the other hand, respond better to “how” arguments that focus on the feasibility of the thing being advertised.
With that in mind, Yoon said the Lincoln Project's ads portraying Trump "as a bad person versus someone who committed a bad act" resonated more with conservatives than an ad that just featured his Actions are listed. like the Win America Back job interview spot.