Outside Group Involvement in GOP Contest Skyrockets Compared to 2008

Romney Advertising Dominates in Florida;

General Election Advertising Sets Furious Pace

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) Jan. 30, 2012 – 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.

Table 1: Advertising in GOP Presidential Primaries

Year CandidateInterest GroupTotal
Totals are from 1/1/07-1/25/08 compared to 1/1/11-1/25/12.
Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project
2008Ads Aired66,5571,76368,389
Row %97.4%2.6%100%
Cost$48.7M$1.1M$49.8M
2012Ads Aired39,42930,44269,871
Row %56.4%43.6%100%
Cost$13.7M$15.2M$28.9M
% volume increase-40.8%1626.7%2.2%
% spending increase-71.9%1281.8%-42%
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One reason the number of GOP candidate ads has fallen so much since 2008 is that the Romney campaign is not shelling out the cash it did the first time he ran for president. (He was on the air in Iowa for much of 2007, but he did not start advertising this time around until December 2011).  Table 2 compares the campaigns with the largest number of candidate-sponsored airings across the last two GOP primaries.

Table 2: Front-Runner Candidate-Sponsored Ad Totals in the 2008 and 2012 GOP Presidential Primaries

 2008 2012 
Totals are from 1/1/07-1/25/08 compared to 1/1/11-1/25/12.
Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project
Ad AiringsEst. Cost (thous.)Ad AiringsEst. Cost (thous.)
Gingrich3,891$972
Giuliani6,645$5,319
Huckabee5,825$2,611
McCain10,178$7,179
Paul5,226$2,8025,638$1,993
Perry11,690$2,697
Romney34,453$28,35115,035$7,341
Santorum3,067$700
Thompson4,032$2,225
Totals$66,359$48,487$39,321$13,703
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Even though Romney has not been on the airwaves as much as he was in 2008, his campaign and its allies have dominated the airwaves in Florida, airing almost 13,000 ads on broadcast television across the state, as of Wednesday, the 25th (Table 3).  Gingrich and his interest-group allies have aired only about 200 spots, with Paul and Santorum out of the broadcast television game.

Table 3: Spot Count in Florida Primary

 Gingrich Romney 
Totals are from 1/1/11-1/25/12. Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by Wesleyan Media Project
MarketCand.IGCand.IG
Dothan13
Ft. Myers751857
Gainesville569
Jacksonville72945889
Miami12935157
Mobile733
Orlando741,074876
Panama City748
Tallahassee607
Tampa1501,234926
West Palm Beach1887567
Total141965,8266,942
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“One reason we’ve seen the Florida polls shift in Romney’s favor over the past few days, when the national polls have not, is that his message has dominated the paid airwaves in the Sunshine State,” noted Travis Ridout, associate professor of political science at Washington State University and director of the Wesleyan Media Project.  “Gingrich—and Paul and Santorum—have had a much more difficult time making themselves heard.”

 

In South Carolina, however, Romney’s ad advantage was not nearly as great (Table 4).  Romney and interest-group allies aired about 8,000 ads, compared to 5,000 for Santorum, about 4,500 for Gingrich and 3,000 for Paul.  All candidates benefited from sympathetic interest groups airing spots on their behalf; Romney and Gingrich benefited the most while Paul benefited the least.

Table 4: Spot Count in South Carolina Primary

 Gingrich Romney Paul Santorum 
Totals are from 1/1/11-1/25/12. Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project
MarketCand.IGCand.IGCand.IGCand.IG
Augusta055204240000
Charleston5282359121,092530164864599
Charlotte42572
Columbia4901,000624888
Greenville512407694694858242543671
Myrtle Beach3555137651,166404171772671
Savannah455562455584000
Total2,3402,2734,0833,962241657730671941
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The outside group most heavily involved in the Republican nomination race has been Restore Our Future, Inc., a pro-Romney group that has spent an estimated $8 million to air over 13,500 spots on his behalf in media markets in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona and Michigan (Table 5).  Make Us Great Again, a pro-Perry group, spent an estimated $2.2 million on 4200 spots aired in Iowa and South Carolina, while Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich group, has been involved in advertising almost as heavily.  Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow has aired 11 spots on broadcast stations and national cable.

Table 5: Top Groups Involved in GOP Nomination Race

GroupEstimated CostNumber of Spots
Totals are from 1/1/11-1/25/12. Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project
Restore Our Future, Inc.$8,020,61013,550
Make Us Great Again$2,160,4604,212
Winning Our Future$1,614,3903,914
Red, White, And Blue Fund$918,0702,887
Citizens For A Working America PAC$477,1101,287
Our Destiny PAC$1,324,340811
Santa Rita Super PAC$166,990744
NumbersUSA$55,610282
AFSCME$362,470275
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Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has aired over 5,000 ads at an estimated cost of $1.4M, targeting residents of 25 markets in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Table 6 displays the top ten markets of airings.

“Advertising market placement is like a tell, and it is clear that the Obama campaign views these battleground states as most important at this stage of the game,” said Michael Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College and director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

Table 6: Top Ten Markets Airing Obama Campaign Ads

MarketStateNbr Ads
Totals are from 1/19/11-1/25/12. Other markets with Obama ads include: Cedar Rapids,
Charlottesville, Cincinnati, Columbus (OH), Dayton, Des Moines, Grand Rapids,
Greensboro, La Crosse, Lansing, Lima, Milwaukee, Norfolk, Richmond, Traverse City,
and Wilmington. Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots.  
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project
CharlotteNC365
RaleighNC291
Green BayWI277
MadisonWI259
DetroitMI237
GreenvilleNC233
RoanokeVA232
WausauWI224
ClevelandOH210
ToledoOH200
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However, the Obama campaign is not the only one already advertising for the general election (Table 7).  Americans for Prosperity has aired over 5,000 spots in battleground state markets, while Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies has aired over 4,200 spots in similar markets.  The American Petroleum Institute also aired around 1,500 spots.

“I can’t remember a time when so many groups were so involved in general election advertising so early,” noted Erika Franklin Fowler assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “An underappreciated fact about this year’s contest is that outside groups are spending more money per ad than candidates, which makes examining the balance of actual ads voters are seeing very crucial when attempting to tease out their influence.”

Table 7: Top Non-Candidate General Election Spenders

SponsorAd AiringsMarketsEst. Cost
Totals are from 1/1/11-1/25/12. Amounts include broadcast television and national cable spots. Data reported here do not cover local cable buys, only broadcast television and national cable buys.
All cost estimates are precisely that: estimates. CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project
Americans For Prosperity5,180Albuquerque, Cedar Rapids, Charlotte, Charlottesville, Cincinnati,
Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Flint,
Ft. Myers, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Greensboro, Greenville (NC),
Jacksonville, La Crosse, Lansing, Las Vegas, Lima, Madison, Miami,
Milwaukee, Norfolk, Orlando, Raleigh, Reno, Richmond, Roanoke,
Toledo, Traverse City, Wausau, West Palm Beach, Wilmington
$5,753,280
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies4,215Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Columbus (OH),
Dayton, Denver, Ft. Myers, Greensboro, Greenville (SC), Harrisburg,
Jacksonville, Johnstown, National Cable, Orlando, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Wilkes Barre
$3,013,340
American Petroleum Institute1,495Cedar Rapids, Champaign, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland,
Columbus (OH), Des Moines, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis,
Lansing, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha, Washington DC
$1,673,760
Democratic National Committee153Dayton, Denver, Greenville (NC)$59,250
Republican National Committee25Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Norfolk$10,690
Priorities USA Action6National Cable$8,140
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About this Report

Data reported here do not cover local cable buys, only broadcast television and national cable buys.  All cost estimates are precisely that: estimates.

The Wesleyan Media Project provides real-time tracking and analysis of all political television advertising in real-time. Housed in Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center –part of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life – the Wesleyan Media Project is the successor to the Wisconsin Advertising Project, which disbanded in 2009.  It is directed by Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University, Michael M. Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College and Travis N. Ridout, associate professor of political science at Washington State University.

The Wesleyan Media Project is supported by grants from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Wesleyan University.  Data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project using Academiclip, a web-based coding tool.  All spending amounts are estimates of broadcast and national cable spots.

Periodic releases of data will be posted on the project’s website and dispersed via Twitter @wesmediaproject. To be added to our email update list, click here.

For more information contact:
Lauren Rubenstein, lrubenstein@wesleyan.edu, (860) 685-3813

 

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