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Knight Foundation provides $45,000
in new support

By February 18, 2016No Comments

Election campaign advertising by outside groups continues to break records;
Knight Foundation provides $45,000 in new support to Wesleyan Media Project
to promote more transparency in elections

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Feb. 18, 2016 – Interest group involvement in television advertising is breaking records in the presidential primary, the Wesleyan Media Project reports today in its first 2016 analysis of political advertising in the presidential race and Senate campaigns. The project is made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Wesleyan University.

The report shows that advertising in the GOP primary is up 22 percent over 2012 levels and 75 percent over 2008 levels. In addition, group advertising – driven primarily by super PACs – are up 26 percent over 2012 and 23,543 percent over 2008 driven by the fundamental shifts in the campaign finance landscape.
Endorsements and national poll numbers have favored Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but her advantage does not extend to political advertising.

Table 1 of the report shows that about 38,800 ads favoring Clinton have aired this cycle (from Jan. 1, 2015 through Feb. 14, 2016 at an estimated cost of $20.8 million), which is almost the same as the 38,200 ads that have aired favoring Bernie Sanders (at an estimated cost of $20.1 million).

On the Republican side, Jeb Bush holds a slight edge over Marco Rubio in the number of ads that have favored him, which is a big change from mid-December when Bush ads were more dominant on air. Almost 36,000 pro-Bush ads, at an estimated cost of $61.9 million, have aired between Jan. 1, 2015 and Feb. 14, 2016, compared to about 32,600 pro-Rubio ads at an estimated cost of $35.3 million.

The full analysis, examining ads aired through Feb. 14, 2016, is available here. It is the first of six analyses to be issued in 2016; a previous report was issued in Dec. 2015.

A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the Project was established in 2010 with support from Knight Foundation. Since then, it has tracked and analyzed all broadcast advertisements aired on behalf of federal and statewide candidates in all of the country’s media markets and documented the involvement and growth of outside groups on the airwaves. In 2014, more than 750 news organizations cited the project’s data, frequently quoting analysis from the project’s co-directors.

The project also just published a new book, Political Advertising in the United States, which reviews trends in advertising, shifts in the campaign finance landscape that affect political advertising, and findings about the effects of advertising.


“Promoting transparency and more public access to information around elections is essential to helping people make informed decisions on issues that affect their lives,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “The Wesleyan Media Project is helping to advance this goal, improving citizen knowledge of campaign advertising and contributing to deeper coverage of elections.”


The Wesleyan Media Project 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, Thomas S. Foley distinguished professor of government and public policy at Washington State University.
Follow the Wesleyan Media Project on Twitter @wesmediaproject. To be added to our email update list, click here.

Lauren Rubenstein,, (860) 685-3813
Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646,

About Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Conn., is known for the excellence of its academic and co-curricular programs. With more than 2,900 undergraduates and 200 graduate students, Wesleyan is dedicated to providing a liberal arts education characterized by boldness, rigor and practical idealism.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit