Study Suggests Anti-Trump Ads May Turn Trump Supporters

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Throughout the general election, Hillary Clinton's campaign and prominent left-leaning super PAC Priorities USA have hammered away at a key message: a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for bigotry against the disabled, women, even prisoners of war. Turns out some of those messages may have been working to inspire some Republicans to rethink their support of the real estate magnate even before recent sexual assault allegations against him came to light.

A recent study conducted by Ipsos exclusively for Ad Age found that 12% of Republicans said they were less likely to vote for Mr. Trump after viewing a Priorities USA ad depicting a disabled man, a woman on her way to work and a military vet as they listen to the GOP candidate's comments about people like them.

"Putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing," declares Mr. Trump in an old TV interview featured in the Priorities ad from August entitled "Watching." The words stop a woman in her tracks as she prepares to leave her home for work. A blue collar worker looks up from his tools as a remark from Mr. Trump wafts from his television: "You have to be wealthy in order to be great. Sorry to say it." Finally, the camera lands on a Korean war vet sitting with a friend in a small town watering hole. "I like people that weren't captured," says Mr. Trump from a TV above the man.

Study respondents were asked, "How, if at all, does this advertisement impact your plan to vote for [your candidate of choice]?"

Two Clinton campaign ads -- "Unfit" and "The Plan" -- prompted 6% of Republican study participants to express a lower likelihood of voting for their party's nominee. "Unfit" portrays Mr. Trump as unfit to control U.S. nuclear codes and suggests that his temperament is not conducive to leading the country and making tough decisions. "The Plan" describes Mrs. Clinton's plan to raise taxes on corporations and require they pay exit taxes when moving overseas in order to fund job creation programs.

"I think it's truthful," said a male study participant between the ages of 18 and 24 who self-identified as Republican, after watching the "Unfit" ad. "Trump would be the end of us."

After watching the same ad, another male Republican study participant between the ages of 25 and 34 concluded, "She is a liar and she is just trying to do whatever she can to try to take the spotlight off of her lying."

Ads supporting Mr. Trump had less effectiveness when it came to swaying voters away from voting for Clinton. Among Democrats, just 4% said they were less likely to vote for Mrs. Clinton after watching a Trump campaign ad called "Two Americas: Economy." That was the highest percentage of respondents who said they'd consider switching in response to any ad featured in the survey from the Trump campaign or the pro-Trump Great America PAC. The spot states that in Mrs. Clinton's America, the middle class is "crushed," spending and taxes go up, and jobs disappear, while a Trump presidency would bring new jobs, tax relief for families, higher wages and thriving small businesses.

"This measure is primarily a gauge of enthusiasm rather than likelihood to actively switch from voting for Clinton to voting for Trump," said Julia Clark, senior VP at Ipsos Public Affairs. "What we learn here is that the 4% who indicate they may be less likely to vote for Clinton after viewing the ad could simply be indicating that they'll choose not to cast a vote at all."

The study of 539 panelists was conducted in late September by Ipsos exclusively for Ad Age and was not nationally representative. Participants were part of the research firm's online syndicated community run by Ipsos Social Media Exchange, which manages custom online communities and offers social media analytics services.

Study participants viewed the ads through a partisan lens; however, whether a candidate tells the truth, it seems, was paramount to how they perceived the ads. The study found that Clinton campaign ads ranked higher on the truth meter than those from the Trump camp. While 80% of Democrats said Clinton ads were truthful, 67% of Republicans said the same of Trump campaign commercials.

Some ads fueled increased likelihood for people from the ads' opposing parties to vote for their party nominee. Pro-Clinton ad "The Plan" inspired 50% of Republicans to say they were more likely to support Mr. Trump after viewing the ad, which focused on increased taxes for the wealthy and corporations.

And some ads from the right sparked even more enthusiasm from Democrats to vote for Mrs. Clinton. The Trump camp's "Two Americas: Economy" ad inspired 55% of Democrats to say they were more likely to vote for her after watching it. A spot from pro-Trump group Great America PAC featuring former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani prompted 56% of Democrats to state they were more likely to vote for Mrs. Clinton. In the ad, entitled "Leadership," Mr. Giuliani declares, "The world must come together and defeat terrorism and America needs to lead." He continues, "America's leadership can and must be better and with Donald Trump as president it will be."

"I believe what Rudy was saying is true," stated a Republican female between 35 and 44 years of age after watching the ad. An older female Democrat between 55 and 64 watched the same ad and said, "Guiliani is as big a liar as Trump."

"Truth is a strong theme in this election overall. The reactions to the ads demonstrate that," said Ms. Clark. Participants reacted most strongly to the ads that they viewed as true (generally ads from their party's candidate) or not true (ads from the other candidate), she said.

To measure truthfulness, participants were asked to gauge the veracity of all three of each candidates' ads evaluated in the study.

Independents had a slightly more positive view of the Clinton ads, according to the truthful measure, but not much. While 48% of independents called Clinton ads truthful, 40% said the same of Trump ads. And, not surprising, most Democrats and Republicans were skeptical of their party's rival candidate messages. Among Democrats, 23% said Trump campaign ads were truthful; 26% of Republicans deemed Clinton ads as truthful.

The Ipsos panel consisted of 239 self-identified Democrats, 157 self-identified Republicans and 126 self-identified independents, 82% of whom were between the ages of 25 and 54. Sixty-five percent were female and 35% male. Study participants were part of a proprietary panel of tech-savvy media enthusiasts with a high concentration of millennials and self-declared influencers who take part regularly in Ipsos surveys about TV, movies, gaming and technology.

Panelists were exposed to three out of nine total ads featured in the study, one from each set of ads. One set included three Clinton campaign ads, another set featured three Trump camp ads, and the third included one ad from each of three PACs, Clinton-backer Priorities USA, Trump-supporter Great America PAC and Purple PAC, which backs Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

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