March 18th, 2016

Anti-Trump Ads Deliver Mixed Performance across Republicans and Independents


Ace Metrix

Distinct Themes and Sponsors Help Move the Needle

Among all of the Republican Presidential campaign ads we’ve analyzed over the past two months, we’ve seen 21% fall into the category of anti-Donald Trump ads. For ads airing over the past 30 days, that number goes up to 30%. Interestingly, when examining performance of 24 anti-Trump ads airing since late January among Independents and Republicans separately, we see half of the ads score above the norm, and half appear below norm, for each group.

Our analysis shows that the two groups are swayed by different themes and sponsors. While the Independent voters find personal stories conveyed by citizens most impactful, Republican voters are affected more by attacks on Trump’s stance on key conservative issues. Also, Super PAC ads are top performers among Independents and candidate ads (e.g. Cruz for President) are seeing the most success among Republicans.

Three ads that score above norm for Republicans, but not Independents, “Nothing Conservative”, “Supreme Trust”, and “Even More Questions”, all come from different sponsors but are quite similar in tone and message. All three criticize Trump’s position – and lack of Conservative stance — on key issues, such as abortion, healthcare, taxes, and immigration.

Here is a look at the strongest performing ads among each group of voters:

 Strongest Performing  Anti-Trump Ads
Independents Republicans
Title Sponsor Ace Score (Norm: 420) Title Sponsor Ace Score (Norm: 457)
“Talk Talk Talk” New Day For America 559 “For Our Jobs” Cruz For President 585
“Bob” American Future Fund 534 “Talk Talk Talk” New Day For America 578
“Big Money” Our Principles PAC 517 “Plain Wrong” Cruz For President 516
“Kevin” American Future Fund 511 “Nothing Conservative” Club For Growth Action 507
“Sherri” American Future Fund 510 “Supreme Trust” Cruz For President 505

What’s Working with Republican Voters:

With Republican voters, the Anti-Trump ads are a mixed bag of effective and less effective ads. We’ve seen 13 out of 24 ads perform above norm for Presidential ads among Republican voters (Ace Score Norm: 457), with an average Ace Score of 467. The goal of these of these ads are targeted at switching Republicans before Trump secures the nomination. But to date, Trump keeps on winning and racking up the delegates. While these ads are proving to capture Attention and have impressive Credibility scores as a whole, it’s yet to be seen how they will impact the nomination.

  • The most effective anti-Trump ads among this group are focused on the inability of conservatives to trust Donald Trump. In contrast, among Independents, the top ads focus on citizen stories.
  • In looking at Attention, 18 of the 24 ads are above norm.
  • Relative to Credibility, 18 of the 24 ads are above norm.
  • Republicans are responding more strongly to issue-based messaging.
  • While the American Future Fund ads were the most successful among Independents, the most effective ads among Republicans come from the Ted Cruz campaign.

Among the three highest-scoring ads among the Republican voters:

  • “For Our Jobs” from Cruz for America describes the Trump agenda as supporting Planned Parenthood, government funded healthcare, and letting “illegal aliens take our jobs.” The ad earned the highest Impact Score of this group, 58 (Norm: 46.)
  • “Talk Talk Talk” from the pro-Kasich PAC, New Day for America, was also the top performing ad among Independents.
  • “Plain Wrong” from Cruz from America details further Trump’s support of Planned Parenthood.
  • Across the balance of the top 13 ads among Republican voters, American Future Fund is a clear winner, with 4 ads appearing from that group.

What’s Working with Independent Voters:

Among Independents, 12 of the 24 Anti-Trump ads performed above norm for Presidential ads (Ace Score Norm: 420), with an average Ace Score of 424. Some observations:

  • The most effective anti-Trump ads with Independents include themes specific to being scammed by Trump University, his past history of employing illegal immigrants, and general mistrust of Trump based on past support on issues like abortion and Obamacare.
  • 10 of the 12 top performing ads come from Super PACs, with American Future Fund and Our Principles PAC leading the way with 4 and 3 ads respectively. Two of the top 12 come form the Ted Cruz campaign.
  • In looking at the Attention score, 16 of the 24 ads are above norm.
  • Relative to the Credibility score, 15 of the 24 ads are above norm.
  • While voters express distaste for negative ads, they appear to be quite effective as evidenced by the Agreement, Attention, and Credibility scores.

The three highest-scoring ads among swing voters are sponsored by the pro-John Kasich PAC New Day for America, and the two strictly anti-Trump PACs American Future Fund and Our Principles PAC.

  • “Talk Talk Talk” by New Day for America simply blasts Trump and the other Republican candidates for engaging in angry rhetoric, stating Kasich is the only candidate who has taken action, more specifically creating jobs. The ad also earned an impressive Impact Score* of 56, well above the norm for this audience of 44.
  • “Bob” by American Future Fund features a real citizen speaking as a victim of fraud of Trump University. The ad had the highest Attention score within this audience, 687 (Norm: 548)
  • “Big Money” by Our Principles PAC calls into question Trump’s history of giving jobs to, and making huge profits by employing, illegal immigrants.

In trying to understand why the strong performance of some of these ads isn’t impacting primary results, we looked at performance of all Presidential campaign ads (not limited to Anti-Trump ads) from the past 14 days among this swing group. Four of the top six are from the Bernie Sanders campaign, and one is from Hillary for America. Two anti-Trump ads reach the top ten, “Talk Talk Talk” and “For Our Jobs”, but the prevalence of Sanders ads among this group indicates where the swing votes may be heading.

Given that among each group, about half of the ads fell below the norm, it makes sense to examine some of the low scores to see what’s not working with each group. Here are the low scorers among each voting group:

Lowest Scoring Anti-Trump Ads

Independents Republicans
Title Sponsor Ace Score (Norm: 420) Title Sponsor Ace Score (Norm: 457)
“Secret” Our Principles PAC 374 “Playing Trump” Cruz For President 418
“Tough Questions :60” Our Principles PAC 366 “The Best Words” American Future Fund 410
“Democrat :15” Our Principles PAC 356 “New York Values” Cruz For President 409
“New York Values” Cruz For President 327 “Democrat :15” Our Principles PAC 396
“Playing Trump” Cruz For President 316 “System” Cruz For President 394

Three ads appear in the bottom five among each voter group:

  • “Democrat :15”, from Our Principles PAC, which asks, “Is Donald Trump really one of us?” Claiming Trump is really a Democrat didn’t come across as credible to Independents or Republicans (Credibility Scores of 446 and 486).
  • “New York Values” from the Ted Cruz campaign describes Donald Trump’s values as “New York values, not ours.” Said one female Independent voter, “So Cruz thinks offending all of New York is a wise move.”
  • “Playing Trump”, also from Ted Cruz, may have offended all parties in its use of children playing with dolls to put down Trump. It was the lowest scoring ad among Independents, and also achieved the lowest Credibility score, 390.

As we move toward November, and if Trump wins the nomination, it will be interesting to see how the volume, themes, and performance of anti-Trump ads shifts.

* The Impact Score directly measures the ad’s influence on the voting decision by asking the question “after seeing this ad, how likely or unlikely are you to vote for the candidate?” The scale is 1-100, with 100 being “more likely to vote” for the candidate.

About Ace Metrix POLITICS
Ace Metrix POLITICS provides video ad effectiveness metrics and data to campaigns, PACs, and advocacy groups, based on 500 respondents per ad and a sample of national registered voters balanced to the US census. The data collected provides insights into the effectiveness of the ad, verbatim responses and the likelihood the ad changed the way respondents will vote.

For more information on Ace Metrix POLITICS, please email Mark Bryant:



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