Hillary Clinton's campaign ran TV ads that had less to do with policy than any other presidential candidate in the past four presidential races, according to a new study published on Monday by the Wesleyan Media Project.Clinton's team spent a whopping $1 billion on the election in all -- about twice what Donald Trump's campaign spent. Clinton spent $72 million on television ads in the final weeks alone.But only 25 percent of advertising supporting her campaign went after Trump on policy grounds, the researchers found. By comparison, every other presidential candidate going back to at least 2000 devoted more than 40 percent of his or her advertising to policy-based attacks. None spent nearly as much time going after an opponent's personality as Clinton's ads did.
In stark contrast to any prior presidential cycle for which we have Kantar Media/CMAG data, the Clinton campaign overwhelmingly chose to focus on Trump's personality and fitness for office (in a sense, doubling down on the news media's focus), leaving very little room for discussion in advertising of the reasons why Clinton herself was the better choice.Trump, on the other hand, provided explicit policy-based contrasts, highlighting his strengths and Clinton's weaknesses, a strategy that research suggests voters find helpful in decision-making. These strategic differences may have meant that Clinton was more prone to voter backlash and did nothing to overcome the media's lack of focus on Clinton's policy knowledge, especially for residents of Michigan and Wisconsin, in particular, who were receiving policy-based (and specifically economically-focused) messaging from Trump.