Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Show your support

September 20th, 2008, 7:57am by Sam Wang


This site doesn’t take donations. But one way to show your support is to give to the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. They’ve made what one survey suggests is, by some measures, the most effective ad of the campaign. Details – and equal time to an opposing cause – follow.

The ad is persusasive to independent voters and moves opinion toward Obama, as shown by this survey. Independent voters expressed a degree of skepticism intermediate between Republicans and Democrats, but all groups found the content to be disturbing. Scores for other ads are found here; the second place scorer was McCain’s “Pump” ad.

You can sponsor the Defenders of Wildlife ad to be shown in Ohio and Florida. Use this link.

In terms of brain mechanisms, this ad has two notable features that I’ve written about as being good for making an idea stick. First, it appeals to disgust, an emotion that plays a powerful role in memory formation. Second, the low skepticism score among independents suggests that it may escape the phenomenon of biased assimilation, in which we tend to reject evidence that disagrees with our existing worldview.

For those on the other side, here is a link to the National Republican Senate Committee. This is a relatively good target for donations since the Senate is a point of strong leverage for Republicans, even as the minority party, which seems likely. And as the site says, more optimistically, “Two seats to recapture the Senate.”

Later I’ll have further suggestions for how to decide where your donations are most effective. One central idea is to identify races where the win probability might be movable by donations. I wrote about this in 2004. Therefore I will be recommending support for toss-up races; these will be the same races for either side.

Tags: 2008 Election · Site News

8 Comments so far ↓

  • steven clemens

    Finally, after days of searching, a site that presents an objective analysis of state-by-state poll data that yields insight into the current state of election dynamics. I cannot thank you enough for this contribution.

  • Deanna Smith

    Hi Sam,

    This site keeps me sane these days with its fact-based approach. I hate to feel manipulated. The mainstream media seems to practice selective phrasing in the interest of keeping the election as close as possible. If one candidate goes up too far in public opinion, they subtly alter how they tell the story to try to tilt the scales back to center and keep people tuned in to boosts ratings. What do you think?

  • Sam Wang

    Vicki, thank you. However, I feel the need to make a clarification. The analysis is set up to be automated without my interference from me. I did my best to make it as accurate and unbiased as possible. It’s based on hard data. Therefore it’s an information resource that is useful to everyone.

    Yes, I do have a partisan preference. The comments suggest that readers of the site break in the same direction. But I also think that a healthy form of bipartisanship can move policy forward. We haven’t had that for over a decade, in large part due to escalating tactics by the Republicans. I think there’s hope for next year for a more reasonable discussion. The place to start building that is the Senate.

  • Vicki Vance

    The Palin video is very powerful – actually painful to watch. I donated $100 and hope to hell it helps a little. But, I was thinking that I wish you wouldn’t do anything to help the republicans, Sam. Why do you feel the need to provide equal time to the opposing viewpoint? Or am I only imagining that you favor Obama because I see that you are smart?

  • Jon

    Sam — Great work man. I can personally attest that this advertisement touched my emotional side more than any other I’ve seen so far.

    I’d really like to see it playing in Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada.

  • Sam Wang

    Elizabeth, I’ve given a quick look to the MediaCurves PDF, and may comment further. My initial take is that I like what they do. (And of course they promote their product. What are companies supposed to do?)

    There’s something interesting buried in the report: keywords that the focus group associates with the ad. The word “skeptical” leapt out at me. It came up among Republicans far more than among Democrats or independents. This is interesting because of the idea of biased assimilation, which I’ve written about before. Basically, when confronted with a piece of disagreeable evidence, people tend to question it. This creates a situation where facts we like are more likely to stick with us.

    It’s not surprising that Republicans don’t like tis ad. What’s interesting is that independents come up with the word far less often. This suggests the ad is indeed effective and gets into the heads of persuadables.

    In general, I think that overcoming biased assimilation may be a central key to winning over independent voters. It’s related to the “wedge” concept that people like to talk about.

  • Elizabeth Duvert

    PS. Clarification: Colleagues keep putting down both ad as a wedge issue and MediaCurves as a company with a new gimmick that they want to sell.

  • Elizabeth Duvert

    Hi, Sam,
    As usual, love your work. Would you please comment on the validity of the survey done by Mediacurves on the ad regarding aerial gunning of wolves. I have tried to argue this ad is effective, as per Media Curves, but colleagues keep putting it down. Also, do you know of any other analysis of the effectiveness of the ad?
    Thanks again,
    E. D.