Campaign season is about to start, and that means lots and lots of commercials — especially since the Supreme Court has consistently struck down any soft money and Super PAC limitations. We’ve known for ages that when it comes to targeting products on television, different tactics are used for different audiences. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that political campaigns are tweaking their ads as well, hoping to best appeal to different demographics.
What’s sad, however, is what will be lacking when it comes to “women-friendly” campaign commercials. Facts. According to the Republican party, that sort of information just doesn’t appeal to women, who would rather have their emotions played to.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Republican ad-maker Ashley O’Connor told the news organization that to better reach a female audience and win over those votes, they would rather have an emotional connection then be pestered with a bunch of numbers and solid information. “[W]hen talking to women, I don’t think you necessarily have to be delivering factual information to move them. I think connecting with their heart and really trying to build emotion is more effective,” O’Connor justified.
The idea that women and men process information differently isn’t new, but using it as a means to justify purposefully keeping real, pertinent information from women under the guise of marketing a political “product” to them is sexist cynicism at its worst. That the GOP believes that female voters would not only be content with, but actually persuaded by pitches from candidates who don’t give real facts on numbers such as fiscal policy, health care changes, or education or job proposals, but would rather get a personal story and kitchen table narrative about good mothers or struggling families details every reason why the party has had such a difficult time getting women voters on their side in the first place.
But then again, it’s not really all women voters they are trying to snag. “When the GOP says they’re going after ‘the female vote,’ they’re not trying to convince someone like me to vote against my self interest,” writes Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel. “They’re not trying to convince a young, citydwelling single mom to vote for a candidate who promises to make her own life a lot more difficult. They’re reaching out to the only women who, in their eyes, matter: married ones and white ones. Especially if the married white ladies are really not into facts.”
If the married white women are who they are going after, that’s a whole lot of preaching to the choir. Despite his overall loss, GOP candidate Mitt Romney did far better with that demographic than President Obama did, and in 2013 that trend continued with them breaking for Virginia Republican Ken Cuccinelli over now Governor Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate.
Regardless of whether the Republican party is hoping to win over all women, or just a particular subset of them, the belief that a good narrative full of emotion and devoid of fact is the best way to go about doing it may have an a few ulterior motives attached, too. By sticking to emotional pleas and skipping over the pesky numbers and information side of things, it’s much harder for a candidate to be pinned down to an unpopular policy stance, such as trying to propose his or her own “replace it” version of the Affordable Care Act if they ever do manage to overturn it, or explain where funding for schools or community resources will come from if he or she is at the same time refusing to raise taxes on the richest Americans or on corporations.
The other thing that skipping information in favor of emotional appeals manages is to keep a politician buffered from any accusations of misleading or lying to the public. After all, it’s very difficult to fact check someone who has no facts.
Will the new ploy work, or will women see right through it? I guess we will find out in November.
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