Influx of Spending Indicates House is the True Battleground;
IGs Spending Over $65 Million in Federal & Gov Races
(MIDDLETOWN, CT) Oct. 13, 2010 – An estimated $198M has been spent on advertising in U.S. Senate and U.S. House races in the five weeks between 9/1 and 10/7. With September as the traditional start to the general election season, the 75 percent increase in spending (from $113M during the same period in 2008) includes an 84 percent spending increase in U.S. Senate races and a 65 percent increase in U.S. House ads.
The increase in activity continues to be driven largely by candidates, but the interest group and party/coordinated spending difference between House and Senate races indicate that both sides believe the House is the true battleground,” said Michael Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “Party spending is up in the House, especially if we add in coordinated spending, while the reverse is true in the Senate where party spending is way down even if we account for the significant increase in coordinated spending.”
Table 1: Advertising in U.S. Senate Races 9/1-10/7
Table 2: Advertising in U.S. House Races 9/1-10/7
Interest group spending tells a similar story. Although interest group airings and spending are up across the board, there are big differences between the investments being made in House versus Senate races. Interest group activity has nearly doubled in U.S. House races.
The evidence is clear: the focus right now is on control of the House. Both parties and interest groups are taking aim at key House districts races, flooding the airwaves in hopes of gaining at the margin,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “If you account for the overall proportion of airings, interest group activity in U.S. Senate races actually fell in comparison to 2008.” (The higher interest group spending totals in the Senate are explained by groups in 2010 spending in more expensive media markets than in 2008.)
Candidates in federal races have spent roughly $130M and Democrats have a 1.5:1 advantage in that spending. However, between 9/1 and 10/7, almost $65M has been spent by interest groups in key federal and gubernatorial races.
Breaking down the air war by party reveals big advantages to Republicans in both party and interest group investment in federal races,” said Franz. “Combining party and coordinated totals, Republicans are outspending Democrats by almost 3 to 2. Among interest group spenders, Republican-leaning organizations are outspending Democrats by a margin of almost 9:1 in House and Senate contests.”
Table 3 displays the top 10 interest group spenders in all races, including Senate, House and gubernatorial. Listed are the type of organization, number of ad airings and party affiliation (for a list of the top 30 along with more information about which races each is active in, see http://election-ad.research.wesleyan.edu/press-releases/, look for the link to the XML file). Among the top 10 interest group spenders, Republican- leaning organizations outspent Democratic ones by a margin of over 10:1. Furthermore, 4 of the top 10 group spenders are non-profit 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), or 501(c)(6) organizations, which are not required to disclose their donors.
We continue to see evidence of large spending by non-profits that if nothing else are profiting from protections that do not require them to disclose their donors,” Fowler said.
Table 3: Top 10 Interest Group Spenders by Volume and Ad Count (9/1-10/7)
Top races in the battle for the U.S. Senate include the three-way Florida contest weighing in at roughly $11M in ad spending and over 16,400 airings, Illinois’ contest at $10M and Pennsylvania’s Toomey vs. Sestak race at just over $9M. Democrats had an advantage in terms of total ad airings in 4 of those races; Republicans had an advantage in 6. Top House races are Michigan’s 7th district, Minnesota’s 6th and Nevada’s 3rd, all of which broke the $2M mark in estimated spending in the five weeks following Sept. 1.
Table 4: Top US Senate Races in 2010 by Spending (9/1-10/7)
Table 5: Top House Races in 2010 by Spending (9/1-10/7)
Given the record spending this year, one has to wonder whether the campaigns have no-limit credit cards,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and associate professor of political science at Washington State University. “Candidate spending is up, and independent group spending is up. Spending is up in House races, and spending is up in Senate races. With all of the ads showing up on their television screens, many Americans must be thinking that it is already the first week of November.”
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 and her collaborators 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 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Sunlight Foundation, Wesleyan University, and its partner institutions Bowdoin College and Washington State 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.
For more information contact:
David Pesci at 860-685-5612 or dpesci at wesleyan.edu
Erika Franklin Fowler at 860-685-3407 or efowler at wesleyan.edu
Michael M. Franz at 207-798-4318 or mfranz at bowdoin.edu, or
Travis N. Ridout at 509-335-2264 or tnridout at wsu.edu