Apparently, “playing the woman card” doesn’t help Hillary Clinton nearly as much as Donald Trump playing-the-playing-the-woman-card hurts Donald Trump.
I infer this from a piece in Monday’s New York Times Upshot blog, where political scientists often share their findings with us laypersons (or does one mean laypeople?).
Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA political scientist and frequent contributor, shares some focus-group research on two ads. The first ad shows a variety of women reading aloud from among the degrading things Trump has said about women. The ad very successfully drove up Trump’s negatives. Members of the group who had seen the ad were 10 percentage points higher in their negative feelings toward Trump compared with a control group that had seen a generic ad for an insurance company.
Vavreck’s research team also showed an ad with several actresses who have played positive female characters talking about the positive qualities of those characters. Viewers were very happy with the first half of the ad, and were turning dials to show that they were liking what they were saying. At the mid-point, the ad turns into an effort to link Clinton with the positive female role models the actresses have been portraying. “The real world has Hillary Clinton,” the actresses say. Vavreck writes about a dramatic change in the audience’s reaction:
“At that moment, roughly half the people watching indicated they disliked what they were hearing. Hardly anyone said they liked it.”
Curiously, when they checked the focus-group members’ ratings before and after the ad, the Vavreck team found that while Clinton’s unfavorable ratings were 10 points lower, her favorable ratings were only one point higher. (I’m presuming this means that the decline in Clinton’s unfavorables reflected people switching from unfavorable to the neutral column, but not crossing into the favorable column.)
Fewer than half of the people who saw the ad rated it as “truthful,” Vavreck writes. That can only mean that they felt the description of Clinton as the real-life embodiment of the favorable characteristics of the actresses’ fictional characters didn’t ring true.
Vavreck concludes that “it’s far easier to drive down support for Mr. Trump by highlighting the derogatory things he has said about women than it is to drive up support for Mrs. Clinton by talking about her as a strong woman.”
The second ad, the one that starts with the actresses and turns into a testimonial to Clinton’s qualities, is by the Clinton campaign. You can view it here.
Or both ads are embedded in the Vavreck post on Upshot. You can read and view that post here.