Data Show Lincoln Project Ads Were Often Ineffective
During the election, online panels of viewers using the Civis Analytics platform judged ads by candidates and prominent third-party groups on a month-by-month basis. That data, compiled by Open Labs, was shared widely among Democratic-aligned third-party groups to evaluate the effectiveness of the spots.
A detailed comparison of the tested ads shows that spots from the Lincoln Project and RVAT were often outperformed by spots from Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, as well as other Democratic-aligned groups.
One of the weakest-testing Lincoln Project ads was a media-touted spot that accused Trump of being too soft on China. An ad that envisioned Trump’s Mexico border wall lined with the coffins of coronavirus victims performed worse than all but four Democratic ads tested in August, out of 107.
In the document’s review of sixty-five Democratic-aligned ads on air as of election day, the Lincoln Project’s two tested ads ranked fifty-second and fifty-third for persuading voters to support Biden.
Even worse, two Lincoln Project and RVAT ads designed to generate support for Biden ended up convincing more panelists to support Trump’s reelection. One of those ads, from the Lincoln Project, criticized Trump and his supporters for using violent rhetoric and threatening to not accept the results of the election, which to be fair is happening.
The other, from RVAT, featured a top George W. Bush foreign policy official criticizing Trump for calling World War I veterans “suckers” and “losers.” The one-minute ad, which was tested in late October, was based on a much-discussed piece by Jeffrey Goldberg, the hawkish editor of the Atlantic.
One early Lincoln Project ad first tested in June scored well, and persuaded 2.6 percent of panelists to support Biden. The ad is a comparison ad and mostly stays positive. The ad first plays thirty seconds of presidents looking the part in moments of crises. Then, there’s Trump announcing he’s sending federal troops to US cities. At the end, they actually plug Biden for fifteen seconds and play video of him saying he “won’t fan the flames of hate.”
Another better-testing ad from the Republican groups as the race went on was a Lincoln Project spot in September asserting that Trump is making America more dangerous. That ad persuaded 1.7 percent of panelists to shift their vote to Biden.