Michael J. Fox Spot Takes Politics Back To The Future, Sways Voters

"Daisy." "Morning In America." Willie Horton. Swift Boats. Michael J. Fox? Have Republicans been betrayed by their conservative "Family Ties" stalwart Alex P. Keaton? A new national study reveals that American voters' support for stem-cell research and candidates who favor it has dramatically increased after seeing a political commercial featuring Michael J. Fox endorsing Democratic candidates who support the scientific research.

Most significantly, Republicans who indicated that they were voting for a Republican candidate decreased by 10% after viewing the ad, from 77% to 67%--while Independents planning to vote for Democrats increased by 10%, from 39% to 49%.

The controversial spot depicts a constantly moving and swaying Fox, who suffers from a severe form of Parkinson's disease, explaining how local politics sometimes register on a larger stage because of their national implications. He then implores viewers to cast their vote for a candidate who supports stem-cell research.



"We've done dozens of these studies in the past few election cycles, and, comparably, this one seems to have much more movement in the pre-test/post test," says Chris Borick, Ph.D., director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, in Allentown, PA, which conducted the study with Flemington, NJ marketing and communications research company, HCD Research.

"I think that goes to the type of ad it is. It's powerful on a personal level."

The 30-second commercial is currently running in states where a pro-stem-cell research candidate is running against someone who opposes it, including Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Study participants included self-reported Democrats, Republicans and Independents who were asked to view the ad and respond to pre- and post-viewing questions.

The level of concern regarding a candidate's view on stem-cell research increased among all respondents from 57% prior to viewing the ad to 70% after viewing the ad. Among Democrats, the level of concern increased from 66% to 83%, while Republicans' level of concern increased from 50% to 60%. Independents' level of concern increased from 58% to 69%.

The perception that the November election is relevant to the U.S. policy on stem-cell research increased across all voter segments, with an increase of 9% among all respondents pre- and post-viewing, from 62% to 71%. The Democrats' perception increased from 75% to 83%, Republicans' perception increased from 55% to 62%, and Independents' perception increased from 60% to 68% pre- and post-viewing.

Among all respondents, support for stem-cell research increased from 78% prior to viewing the ad to 83% after viewing the ad. Support among Democrats increased from 89% to 93%, support among Republicans increased from 66% to 68%, and support among Independents increased from 80% to 87% after viewing the ad.

The advertisement elicited similar emotional responses from all responders with all voter segments, indicating that they were "not bored and attentive" followed by "sorrowful, thankful, afraid and regretful."

The vast majority of responders indicated that the ad was believable, with 76% of all responders reporting that it was "extremely believable" or "believable." Ninety-three percent of Democrats, 57% of Republicans, and 78% of Independents indicated that it was "extremely believable" or "believable."

Prof. Borick suggested that Republicans' internal research likely backed his study's findings, as the GOP is rushing an opposing ad to market, featuring celebrities and athletes who oppose stem-cell research. The commercial was slated to debut last night during the World Series in Missouri.

The study was conducted October 24-25 among 955 Americans.

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