Political ads that attack President Trump’s personality and character, instead of being policy-focused or hopeful, are ineffective and possibly counterproductive by driving away undecided voters, new research from the group Fellow Americans finds.
Fellow Americans is a nonprofit organization created by Obama administration alums and other Democratic activists that produces “content proven to move voters and make change.”
The group tries to optimize ads to persuade voters with hopeful messages instead of the nasty personal attacks.
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Fellow Americans partnered with a firm called Swayable, which showed ads to specific demographics then surveyed them, and found that a quarter of the ads Democrats ran in 2016 were counterproductive.
“You can ask people really foundational questions like, ‘Are you more or less likely to support Donald Trump?’ And over thousands of repetitions, you can start learning really interesting stuff that you couldn’t get by just releasing something online and watching the engagement go,” Shomik Dutta, who helped found Fellow Americans, told Vanity Fair.
“So through this process Swayable found that fully 25% of all ads the Democratic Party ran in 2016 drove people in the wrong direction.”
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The group found that optimistic ads featuring regular people resonate with voters much better than attack ads that criticize the president’s personality.
Fellow Americans did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
According to the Wesleyan Media Project, presidential advertising is much higher this year than in 2016, though this is due in part to the spending by billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer during the Democratic primaries.
When it comes to classic television ads, Joe Biden and his supporters put up 106,000 ads at a cost of $58.9 million Aug. 10- Sept. 9, which is double the 57,000 ads that Trump and his supporters have put up at a cost of $35.8 million.
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$993 million was spent on broadcast and national cable ads in this presidential election so far.
While Biden has the edge in TV ads, Trump has the edge in digital ads. The Trump campaign spent roughly $45 million on ads on Facebook and Google Aug. 10-Sept. 9, while the Biden campaign spent $34 million.