During the election, the media tried to portray Hillary Clinton as the serious candidate. Sure, she had her faults, but at least she made the campaign about policy. Donald Trump on the other hand? He made the campaign into a circus full of personal insults — not to mention the contest was overshadowed by his past “crude remarks.”
The message was clear: Hillary Clinton was the only “real” candidate. However, a new study reveals just how untrue that narrative was.
Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but at least she wasn’t the candidate turning the 2016 election into a policy-light, personality-driven circus…right? Not so fast. Conventional wisdom may hold that Clinton ran the more serious and substantive campaign, but a new analysis out of Wesleyan University suggests otherwise, at least when it comes to campaign advertising.
“Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests,” according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzed election ads that ran between June 8, 2016, and election day.
The researchers studied campaign and PAC ads, shedding light on who actually ran the more serious campaign:
For the analysis, Wesleyan researchers coded Clinton and Trump ads—including those from their respective campaigns and ads from political action committies and allies—as being driven by policy, personality, or both. They found that more than half of Clinton’s ads focused on Clinton’s positive personal qualities or Trump’s negative personal qualities rather than on policy matters, compared to a little over 10 percent of Trump’s ads.
Campaign advertising for Trump, meanwhile, was both more likely to focus on policy issues alone and to focus on a mix of policy and candidates’ personal qualities
They also charted how the campaigns compared to previous presidential elections. That didn’t look any better for Clinton.
The Clinton campaign strategy wasn’t bad just compared to Trump, but historically bad. By contrast, Trump ran one of the most policy-focused campaigns in recent history. This research shatters the myth that Clinton was the only serious candidate in the running.
Clearly, Americans voted for Donald Trump because he offered something tangible that they could support. His campaign offered change, while Clinton offered more of the same.
Of course, not much has changed since the election. Instead of reflecting on why they lost, Democrats have come up with elaborate conspiracy theories about Russian interference. Evidently, they haven’t learned their lesson.
[Note: This post was written by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]