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6. Voters want to hear what a candidate will do for them. Voters respond more favorably to negative ads if the candidate offers them a positive message about her plans, in addition to contrasting with her opponent.
Women can also sometimes push back with greater moral authority and implicitly suggest their opponent is a bully. That is difficult for a man to do.
We saw these findings in practice last election cycle, and we’ll continue to see them as 2014 races heat up. The McConnell and Grimes back-and-forth playing out in Kentucky is one high-profile example.
Grimes effectively used an unexpected dose of humor, addressed an attack head-on and stuck to one, streamlined message to undercut her opponent. And McConnell? Well, he just looks like a bully.
Barbara Lee is founder and president of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which works to advance women’s equality and representation in American politics through nonpartisan political research, strategic partnerships, and grants and endowments. For the full findings on Change the Channel: Ads That Work for Women, visit barbaraleefoundation.org.