Targeting Voters in Tandem

The Moscow Project
Oct 5, 2017 · 2 min read

In the latest data point in a striking collection of similarities between the Trump campaign and the Russian campaign to ensure his election, we now know that Russian bots blanketed Michigan and Wisconsin with ads designed to inflame the racial tensions that swung white working-class voters toward Trump.

The two campaigns were so similar in their tactics that it seems like they were working in tandem to achieve their mutual goal of a Trump victory.

Both campaigns focused on suppressing Democratic turnout.

  • As we outlined last week, both the Trump campaign and Russian troll agencies used targeted Facebook ads to draw votes away from Hillary Clinton.
  • The Trump campaign bragged about using Facebook to reduce Democratic turnout, touting “three major voter-suppression operations” aimed at sowing doubt in Clinton voters’ minds and promoting third-party candidates.
  • Russian accounts aimed to amplify specific cultural divides, with some ads attacking Clinton from the left and promoting Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders.

Almost nobody thought Trump could win Michigan and Wisconsin — except the Trump campaign.

  • Analysts — including those in the Republican Party — spent the last day of the election puzzling over why Trump was spending so much time in states that had long been written off as locks for Clinton instead of traditional battlegrounds like Florida and Nevada.
  • The few analysts who did see the early cracks in Clinton’s “blue wall,” such as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, were dismissed, especially as late polls showed Clinton ahead by significant margins.
  • Against the same evidence showing Clinton with a strong lead in Michigan and Wisconsin, but vulnerable in places like Florida and Nevada, Russia chose the same path that most people considered another act of Trump campaign self-sabotage.

Russia seemed to have the same insights into the American electorate as the Trump campaign.

  • The Trump campaign, with its unprecedented capitalization on white resentment and focus on states that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate in decades, took an unconventional path to achieve a shocking upset.
  • At every juncture in an election defined by its unpredictability and divergence from longstanding norms, Russia picked the exact same strategies as the Trump campaign, targeting the same voters on the same platforms with the same messages.

The Moscow Project

Written by

Investigating the extent, nature, and purpose of Trump’s ties to the Kremlin.

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