Bernie Sanders’s message of economic inequality is resonating — even during the commercial breaks. Sanders is surging among likely Democratic voters, and he also has the most persuasive political ads on television, according to TV advertising research firm Ace Metrix.
Eight of the top 12 highest-rated political ads created by Sanders’s campaign (check out the full list below). Widen the scope to the top 25 ads, and Hillary Clinton's campaign is in second place, with six. Republican presidential candidates Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie follow.
“Because of [Sanders’s] message popularity among independents, and all his democrat voters, he floats to the top on the aggregated list,” said Mark Bryant, vice president of Ace Metrix Politics.
To calculate the scores, Ace Metrix showed each ad to 500 respondents drawn from a pool of national registered voters balanced to the U.S. Census. Viewers were then asked to score the ad based on five different factors, including how watchable it is, attention and persuasion, in addition to the degree to which the viewer agreed with the ad or searched for more information.
The highest rated ad of the bunch, a pro-Sanders ad entitled “Social Security,” earned an Ace score of 550. A score of 452 is considered normal for a political ad, according to Ace Metrix.
Best of the Worst?
Thanks in part to a crowded field of Republican candidates and to another record-setting year of campaign ad spending, voters have already been bombarded with 152 different presidential campaign ads. As the number of candidates begins to dwindle, the spending on those ads is expected to surge.
"I think a number of candidates are waiting until after New Hampshire to decide how aggressively to spend on advertising," Bryant said. "Nobody wants to end up like Scott Walker, who was airing ads the day he suspended his campaign."
While having the No. 1-rated anything in a field of 152 is impressive, it’s worth noting that political ads are hardly among TV viewers' favorite kinds of commercial interruption. The normal Ace score for political ads is among the lowest of all the types of ads aired on television. Beer ads, for example, have an Ace norm score of 507; ads for restaurants have a norm score of 587.
No Preaching to the Choir
While Sanders’s ads scored highest overall, they leave less of an impression on the people that Sanders must work hardest to convince in the next several weeks: devoted Democrats. Among Ace panelists who identified themselves as voters who always chose Democrat candidates, ads supporting Hillary Clinton received higher scores. Among that group, six of the 10 top-rated ads support Clinton.
“The party stalwarts, the hardcore Ds [Democrats], are behind Clinton,” Bryant said.
Likewise, on the Republican side, Ted Cruz’s ads performed best among people who identified themselves as always-Republican voters. Four of Cruz’s ads ranked among the 10 highest-scoring ads seen by that group, followed by two supporting Carson and one each for Donald J. Trump, Rubio, Dr. Carson, Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
While Sanders's appeal might not make much difference in the coming weeks when voters caucus in Iowa and New Hampshire, it could become a big deal down the line. "It's those that get to the polls that matter," Bryant said.
Links to the top ten, along with their scores, can be found below:
Bernie Sanders - "Mari" -- 519
Ben Carson - "We the People" -- 517
Joe Biden - "Never Quit" -- 512
Hillary Clinton - "Keith" -- 504