Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winning Midterm Ads Told Voters 'I'm Just Like You'

Political ads, whether they go for positive vibe or negative attack, succeed by connecting candidates to the voters. A key way to do that is to convey the message that a candidate is "just like you," proposes an analysis of 2014 midterm campaign ads by Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA political science professor, writing in The New York Times' The Upshot section. Vavreck cites two contrasting "just like you" approaches that won. Joni Ernst garnered national attention for her Iowa Senate race with her now-famous hog-castration ad, promising to go to Washington to "make 'em squeal," but the heart of her campaign was to connect to Iowa voters with "just like you" authenticity, raising hogs on a farm and making biscuits at Hardee's restaurant. And the last two weeks of her successful Senate bid produced over 80% promotional and positive ads, focusing on government spending, budget and taxes. In contrast, Pat Roberts, the incumbent Republican senator in Kansas, kept his seat by producing 80% of ads that were negative attacks on President Obama and his policies--especially in the last two weeks of his campaign. It wasn't because his opponent was an Obama Democrat; his opponent ran as an independent. But by using attack ads, Roberts tapped into his electorate's disapproval and disappointment with Obama to show voters he was "just like you," Vavreck notes. Politicos gearing up for 2016 certainly should consider the power of "just like you" in planning campaigns. For the complete article, go to

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