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Two-thirds of Senate GOP and Nearly Half of Dem Advertising Sponsored by Outside Groups;
Almost 60 percent of Group Spending is Undisclosed Dark Money

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) April 29, 2014 – With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, advertising in senatorial races is off to an early start, with 109,701 airings at an estimated $43.1 million spent on television ads so far, a 45 percent increase over ad airings in Senate races at this point in the cycle in 2012. Outside groups are responsible for the majority of spots on the airwaves in Senate campaigns (59 percent of airings, a 64 percentage jump over 2012 levels). Just over two-thirds (67 percent) of ads favoring Republican Senate candidates were aired by outside groups, compared to almost half (49 percent) of the ads favoring Democratic Senate candidates.

What is more, a Wesleyan Media Project analysis, in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, reveals that over half of the group-sponsored ads aired so far are so-called “dark money” ads (see Figure 1). In Senate races, 59 percent of interest group airings were sponsored by 501c3, 501c4 and 501c6 groups, which are not required to disclose their donors. In House races, the equivalent percentage is 57 percent.

(Read more about the Wesleyan Media Project’s 2014 ad analysis work, and our grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation here.)

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2012 Campaign Advertising Volume Crushed Previous Records;

Interest Group and Dark Money Analyses in the Works

 

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) Feb. 14, 2013 – Two comprehensive studies of the campaign ad trends from the 2012 election have been published by the researchers from the Wesleyan Media Project.

Negative, Angry, and Ubiquitous: Political Advertising in 2012” by Erika Franklin Fowler of Wesleyan University and Travis N. Ridout of Washington State University, and “Interest Groups in Electoral Politics: 2012 in Context” by Michael Franz of Bowdoin College, appear in the most recent issue of The Forum, a Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics. Read a summary of these publications on the blog of the Knight Foundation, a major funder of the Wesleyan Media Project.
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Pro-Romney Ads Cut into Obama Advantage in Last Week of Oct;

Obama campaign outspends Romney campaign 2.6:1 on ads in the general election period;

Republican outside groups make up the difference for Romney

 

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) Nov. 2, 2012 – As the 2012 campaign comes to a close, the number of ads aired in the presidential general election passed the one million mark last week.  As of October 29, the two candidates, their party committees, and supporting interest groups had sponsored 1,015,615 ads since June 1, a 39.1% increase over 2008 (730,041) and a 41% increase over 2004 (720,064), during the same period.  See Figure 1.
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Over 900,000 Ads Aired in Presidential General Election Race;

Over 210,000 Ads since October 1;

President Continues to Hold Ad Advantage in Key Markets;

Independent Groups and Obama Campaign Most Likely to Use Pure Attack Ads

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) Oct. 24, 2012 – Over 915,000 presidential ads have been aired on broadcast and national cable television since June 1.  This is a 44.5 percent increase from the 637,000 ads aired through October 21 in 2008 and a 43.7 percent increase from the 634,000 ads aired through October 21 in 2004.  See Figure 1.
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President Holds Advantage in 14 of 15 Top Markets;

Only 7.8 Percent of Presidential Ads Positive;

FCC electronic disclosure leaves out more than 50% of federal ads

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) Oct. 3, 2012 – In the three-week period since the parties’ national conventions, Barack Obama and his party and interest group allies have continued to dominate the airwaves in the battleground presidential states. From September 9 to September 30, Obama held an ad advantage in 14 of the 15 most advertised media markets in the key states of Virginia, Ohio, and Florida (Table 1). In the top 15 markets, pro-Romney advertising outpaced pro-Obama advertising only in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (At the end of this report is a listing of advertising in all battleground media markets, Table 15.)
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Pro-Obama Advertisers Had Over 2 to 1 Advantage in Last Two Weeks; Romney Heavily Reliant on Outside Groups; Negative Ads Up Sharply from 2008

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) – Although the Romney campaign has (until recently) dominated the money race, the Obama campaign dominated the broadcast airwaves in the two weeks during the presidential conventions.

As Table 1 shows, during the August 26 to September 8 period, Obama and his allies aired 40,000 ads on broadcast and national cable television, the vast majority of which were paid for by the Obama campaign.  By comparison, Romney and his allies aired roughly 18,000 ads on broadcast and national cable television during that same time period.

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Super PACs Sponsor Bulk of Presidential Ads; Obama, Crossroads GPS Battle in Same States

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) – The 2012 presidential race is shaping up to be an overwhelmingly negative one, much more negative than the 2008 contest to date. As Table 1 shows, 7 out of 10 of the ads aired in this year’s presidential contests have been negative—that is, they mentioned an opponent. This compares to fewer than 1 in 10 ads aired during the 2008 presidential race up to this point that were negative.

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Positive advertising matters as much if not more than negativity

(Middletown, CT) – In the midst of perhaps the most negative presidential primary race in recent history, a new Wesleyan Media Project affiliated study (click here for an older local copy) published by Political Research Quarterly suggests that the tone of ads on the airwaves is not the only thing contributing to citizen perceptions of negativity.

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The New York Times featured an article today on the increasing number of campaigns that are tailoring their advertising messages to different demographics over the internet.  This tactic – frequently referred to as microtargeting – is not confined to online placements of campaign ads.  In a newly published study appearing in Political Communication, two Wesleyan Media Project co-directors find evidence that, at least at the presidential level, campaigns are targeting specific audiences through television ads as well.

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Romney Advertising Dominates in Florida; General Election Advertising Sets Furious Pace

(MIDDLETOWN, CT –) The overall number of GOP presidential ads on the airwaves this election year is comparable with 2008, but who is paying for them so far has changed significantly.  The influence of SuperPACs in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination is clear, with a more than 1600 percent increase in interest-group sponsored ads aired as compared to 2008.

In the first presidential election cycle following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC, interest group involvement in the presidential air war has skyrocketed from 3 percent of all ads aired in the 2008 Republican nomination race to nearly half (44 percent) of all airings. Table 1 shows the total number of GOP presidential ads (through Jan. 25) was just shy of 70,000 airings on broadcast television and national cable in both years. Candidate-sponsored ads, which made up 97 percent of the total in 2008, declined to 56 percent of the total this year.  An estimated $28.9M has been spent to date, a substantial drop from 2008.

 

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