Findings

ACRONYM’s Weekly Forecast – The Inaugural Edition ⚡️

By September 16, 2020 No Comments

First things first: What is DOROTHY?

Before we share messaging insights from ACRONYM and PACRONYM’s live persuasion media programs, we’d like to introduce the machine brain of our predictions: DOROTHY

DOROTHY is a machine learning framework trained on the experiments ACRONYM and PACRONYM have conducted on Facebook, that uses Facebook engagement data to predict the persuasive impact of our ads.

There are a few things we feed DOROTHY to see what’s working and what isn’t. These are:

  • The outcomes of ACRONYM’s research program, called Barometer, including over 100 randomized-controlled trial (or RCT) experiments, which display ads in-field on Facebook and use pre- and post-ads surveys to determine persuasive effects
  • The average treatment effects (or ATEs) we train the model on are our measure of Trump Job Approval from these experiments
  • The engagements on the live Facebook ads running in these experiments

We also take into account national polling trends and the date ads were live, which likely minimizes how effective the ads can be as we move closer to the election. Using DOROTHY, we’ve found a strong correlation between ad engagement and effectiveness, and we use that to inform our programs. 

What’s persuading voters

ACRONYM and its affiliated entities run advertising programs across a wide variety of digital platforms to meet voters wherever they are. On Facebook, our testing has shown that boosting (promoting) news articles to our target audiences is often more effective than promoting political video or graphic ads when it comes to persuasion effect. 

On a weekly basis, we source articles relevant to our target audiences from a diverse range of news sources to drive strategic narratives informed by our Barometer research. These are then served to our persuasion audience in AZ, GA, MI, NC, PA, and WI on a range of topics, typically with negative frames on Trump and positive frames on Biden. 

Every week starting today, we’ll be sharing some of the best and worst-performing articles from the program, as predicted by DOROTHY.

Here are 5 ads that work…

Ad copy: Former senior U.S. officials confirmed that President Trump stated, “It was a stupid war (Vietnam). Anyone who went was a sucker.”

Source: Fox News

Ad launch date: Sep. 9

Predicted effect on Trump approval: -2.2

Ad copy: The Trump administration is still pushing to get children back to classrooms this fall despite surging coronavirus cases.

Source: Yahoo News

Ad launch date: Aug. 19

Predicted effect on Trump approval: -2.2

Ad copy: The Trump administration is still pushing to get children back to classrooms this fall despite surging coronavirus cases.

Source: Yahoo News

Ad launch date: Aug. 19

Predicted effect on Trump approval: -2.2

Ad copy: President Trump recently pushed for universities to reopen for classes in the fall amid coronavirus outbreaks on campuses that have reopened — and in some cases already closed due to surging cases.

Source: The Hill

Ad launch date: Aug. 26

Predicted effect on Trump approval: -1.8

Ad copy: Against the advice of public health experts, Trump has called for the reopening of U.S. schools and pressed Congress to withhold funding from schools that don’t do so.

Source: KTIV

Ad launch date: Aug. 19

Predicted effect on Trump approval: -1.4

Ad copy: Asked about the massive, daily coronavirus death toll in the U.S., Trump said, “They are dying. That’s true. And you — it is what it is.”

Source: CNN

Ad launch date: Aug. 19

Predicted effect on Trump approval: -1.0

…and 4 ads that don’t.

Ad copy: President Trump told Fox Business that he would block additional funding and election assistance for the US Postal Service to sabotage mail-in voting. Critics have also said that recent measures taken by Trump’s Postmaster General are slowing mail delivery in some areas.

Source: Business Insider

Ad launch date: Aug. 14

Predicted effect on Trump approval: +0.6

Ad copy: President Donald Trump said he opposes funding for the U.S. Postal Service and election security grants in an effort to stymie mail-in voting for the upcoming presidential election. Critics say Trump’s actions are “cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines.”

Source: Politico

Ad launch date: Aug. 14

Predicted effect on Trump approval: +0.3

Ad copy: President Trump admitted he opposed additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in order to make it more difficult to deliver mail-in ballots. Critics say Trump is “sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines.”

Source: The Guardian

Ad launch date: Aug. 13

Predicted effect on Trump approval: +0.3

Ad copy: “Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

The president rejected visiting the military cemetery because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day.”

Source: The Atlantic

Ad launch date: Sept. 3

Predicted effect on Trump approval: +0.2

TL: DR; What are the takeaways?

As jarring as it was to read that our Commander-in-Chief can’t wrap his head around why some Americans give their lives for their country, we found that promoting the original story in The Atlantic to our persuasion audience didn’t have a meaningful impact on his approval. Following DOROTHY’s lead and our prior learnings with conservative messengers, we sourced a Fox News article confirming Trump’s comments. Aligned with our priors, DOROTHY predicted that Fox News was a more persuasive messenger.

We should also take care with how we frame our argument around kids going back to school in the midst of a still-raging pandemic. We’ve found that this argument can very effectively move opinion away from the president, but only when it centers on the administration ignoring the threat. We found that when going back to school is argued without the context of the pandemic, the argument very slightly works in the president’s favor.

Finally, we’ve found that when our ads focus on Trump’s attacks on the USPS, this promotes some backlash with our persuasion audience.

Other research + insights from our team

  • Boosting news articles on Joe Biden’s approach to racial justice led to increased expected turnout for non-Trump 2016 voters.
  • Boosting news articles about Biden’s approach to racial justice led to an opinion shift away from Trump towards Biden among voters with lower political knowledge.
  • Ads on Kamala Harris’s history on social justice led to increased favorability of Harris among Dem-leaning voters.
  • Boosting news on BLM protests and Biden’s approach to racial justice led to increased predicted disapproval of Trump among young adults and women. 

 

Thanks for reading our inaugural Weekly Forecast! If you think our findings here were at all helpful or interesting, feel free to share this email with your colleagues and let them know they can sign up here. 

See you next week!

P.S. You can read more about our persuasion program and DOROTHY in the October edition of WIRED here.

James Barnes

Author James Barnes

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