Thursday, August 19, 2004

Slip-Slidin' Away

I reported previously on the effect of the Swiftboat Veterans ad on undecided voters in nineteen battleground states (a 15-point bulge toward “less likely to vote for Kerry”). Now a nationwide independent study has been done on the same question and the results are even more startling.

According to the survey conducted by Muhlenberg College and the firm HCD Research, the ad planted doubts in the minds of 27% of independent voters who planned to vote for Kerry or leaned pro-Kerry. After seeing it, they were no longer sure they'd back him.

"The whole goal of a negative ad is to plant a seed of doubt — and it did," said Professor Chris Borrick of Muhlenberg College. Said HCD chief Glenn Kessler, a Democrat and whose firm was not paid to do the study, "Obviously, the Swift Boat Veterans' intent was to publicly question Kerry's war record, and it looks like they succeeded."

The survey used 1,275 participants, including 371 independents. Half viewed the Swift Vets ad and the other half saw a pro-Kerry ad based on his convention acceptance speech. Their reaction at every second was registered using technology normally used to rate product ads.

The end result? The Kerry ad was rated less persuasive.

HCD is doing a similar study of a counter-ad by the crypto-Marxist group that questions President Bush's military record. And guess what? It appears far less effective in raising doubts among pro-Bush swing voters than the Swifties’ ad in doing the same with their pro-Kerry counterparts.

As I’ve said often in recent weeks, my gut feeling is that this avalanche of insane Bushophobia, like Mediscare before it back in 1996, peaked too early, is past the point of diminishing returns versus the rising backlash it has provoked, and that the proverbial pendulum has starting swinging back in the opposite direction. And the evidence I’m seeing – studies like this one, a series of anecdotal accounts from undecideds in key battleground states indicating a recoil from Kerry despite less than complete fondness for Bush – is corroborating that gut feeling.

The next three weeks and change will determine whether vindication will follow.