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Record Negativity in 2022 General Election So Far;
Tight Ad Race in WI Senate While Dems Lead in AZ and GA

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) – September 22, 2022 – As the traditional general election period of the 2022 midterms kicks into gear, Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis has a commanding lead over his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, in both television ads aired and online ad spending, according to a new report from the Wesleyan Media Project. Over the past two weeks, DeSantis has held a 15:1 lead over Crist in broadcast advertising totals (over 13,000 airings compared to just 881 for Crist). This lopsided advertising is also reflected online.  DeSantis has $470,000 in spending on Facebook and Google over the past two weeks, compared to just $45,000 for Crist.

“It’s pretty stunning to see such a lopsided ad race at this phase of the campaign,” said Mike Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “DeSantis has had a consistent lead in the polling, and it will be nearly impossible for Crist to make up the difference in the context of such a massive imbalance in ad spending.”

The Texas gubernatorial race edges out Florida for the highest volume of television advertising over the past two weeks, and incumbent Republican Greg Abbott leads his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, in the volume of television ad airings, but the difference is roughly 3,000 airings compared to a difference of over 12,000 airings in Florida. Notably the pro-O’Rourke group, Coulda Been Worse, hit the airwaves on September 9 and has accounted for nearly half of pro-O’Rourke advertising in the state in the last two weeks.

In the hotly-contested Wisconsin gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Tony Evers and his Republican challenger, Tim Michels, Evers holds the advantage (6,130 airings compared to 4,065). Outside groups have been active on both sides, but they make up a greater proportion (roughly two-thirds) of pro-Michels advertising.

Gubernatorial races in Georgia and Oregon round out the top five, with 9,854 airings in Georgia over the past two weeks and 9,353 in Oregon. In both cases, Democrats hold slight advantages, with Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams having a 2,116 airing advantage over Republican incumbent Brian Kemp in Georgia, and Democrat Tina Kotek holding a slimmer lead of 1,152 ad airings over Republican Christine Drazan in the race for Oregon’s open seat. A third-party candidate in Oregon, Betsy Johnson, has out-advertised both the pro-Democratic and pro-Republican advertisers, with 3,609 ads in the last two weeks, all sponsored by her own campaign.

The race for Kansas, Michigan and Nevada governor all clock in at more than five thousand airings but have very different competitive environments. The Kansas gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt is pretty even in advertising while Michigan incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is mostly alone on the airwaves with challenger Tudor Dixon having only 19 airings—all from an outside group. In Nevada, incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak has been out-aired by over 1,300 ads promoting Republican Joe Lombardo, who is receiving support from outside groups.

In the open seat Pennsylvania race, Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro also has the airwaves to himself recently, as his opponent Doug Mastriano has not sponsored any ads on broadcast television.

Table 1: Volume of TV Airings in Governor Races (September 5-18)

StateAiringsPro-Dem
Airings
Pro-GOP
Airings
Pro-Dem
Advantage
% Group
Airings
% Pro-Dem
IG
% Pro-GOP
IG
TX14,0715,5518,520-2,96919.4%49.1%0.0%
FL13,92788113,046-12,1650.0%0.0%0.0%
WI10,1956,1304,0652,06553.6%45.0%66.7%
GA9,8545,9853,8692,1160.0%0.0%0.0%
OR9,3533,4482,2961,1520.0%0.0%0.0%
KS4,7822,4572,32513229.1%56.7%0.0%
MI4,6654,646194,62756.2%56.0%100.0%
NV4,0161,3442,672-1,32833.1%0.0%49.7%
IL3,7502,6211,1291,49230.1%0.0%100.0%
OH3,7401,2482,492-1,2440.0%0.0%0.0%
NM3,7212,0481,67337540.3%73.3%0.0%
NY3,3963,0053912,6140.9%1.0%0.0%
ME2,9221,7591,16359625.9%43.0%0.0%
PA2,7262,72602,7262.5%2.5%
MN2,5202,1923131,87949.0%56.4%0.0%
CO2,5052,48932,48614.2%14.2%100.0%
RI2,4711,8296421,18715.3%20.6%0.0%
AZ2,3871,8715161,3550.0%0.0%0.0%
CT1,7528928603210.0%6.7%13.4%
OK1,42897645252468.3%100.0%0.0%
SC9270927-9270.0%0.0%
SD895374521-1470.0%0.0%0.0%
AR7950795-7950.0%0.0%
MA6225051173880.0%0.0%0.0%
IA5090509-5090.0%0.0%
NH1619467270.0%0.0%0.0%
AK50000.0%
Figures are from September 5, 2022, to September 18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Wisconsin Top Senate Race; Dems Hold Ad Advantage in Georgia and Arizona

The Wisconsin Senate race has seen the most broadcast advertising in the last two weeks, with over 14,000 spots.  There is almost perfect partisan balance in advertising, with Democratic Mandela Barnes and his allies just edging out Ron Johnson and his allies by just 184 airings.

“The races for Governor and U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, both very competitive races, are driving up ad volumes in the state,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.  “Across both statewide races, Wisconsin has featured over 24,000 ad airings on broadcast television in the previous two weeks.”

In Pennsylvania, in the race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, the ad balance is just slightly in Oz’s favor.  Oz has a 210 airing advantage out of over 11,000 airings in the previous two weeks.  This is also true in Ohio, in the open seat race between Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan, and in New Hampshire, though a competitive GOP primary wrapped up on September 13, with Don Bolduc just edging out Chuck Morse.

In the Georgie Senate race between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, pro-Warnock ads are far more abundant, with Warnock holding a 2,600 spot advantage on broadcast television. This is true also in the Arizona Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican Blake Masters, with Kelly and allies sponsoring over 7,600 ads to his opponent’s 1,900.  Democrats have ad advantages also in Nevada (where the incumbent Democrat is running) and North Carolina (which is an open seat).

Notably, in Florida, ads favoring incumbent Republican Marco Rubio outnumber those favoring his Democratic opponent, Val Demings, with 779 more pro-Rubio ads in the previous two weeks.  There is also a third-party candidate of note in the Utah Senate race, Evan McMullin.  In fact, no Democratic candidate is on the ballot and therefore there are no ads coded as such in Table 2.  McMullin has sponsored 564 spots in the two weeks, far behind incumbent Mike Lee and his allies, who have sponsored over 1,300.

Table 2: Volume of TV Airings in Senate Races (September 5-18)

StateAiringsPro-Dem
Airings
Pro-GOP
Airings
Pro-Dem
Advantage
% Group
Airings
% Pro-Dem
IG
% Pro-GOP
IG
WI14,1807,1826,99818444.0%35.2%53.0%
GA11,7057,1654,5402,62542.8%26.9%67.8%
PA11,3225,5565,766-21036.5%23.3%49.2%
AZ9,5747,6761,8985,77824.3%19.0%45.5%
NV8,9565,4273,5291,89834.7%23.1%52.6%
OH8,8594,6344,22540934.8%0.0%72.9%
NH8,6334,3054,328-2361.9%39.7%84.0%
FL7,6013,4114,190-7796.6%0.0%11.9%
NC7,2844,5752,7091,86642.9%24.1%74.6%
UT1,95601,341-1,34147.2%68.9 %
IA1,862887975-884.4%9.2%0.0%
WA1,8491,1816685130.1%0.0%0.1%
CO1,7841,3024828200.1%0.0%0.2%
LA1,22701,227-1,2270.0%0.0%
AK79860419441075.7%100.0%0.0%
CT77977907790.0%0.0%
OR70670607060.0%0.0%
KY6890689-6890.0%0.0%
ID6460646-6460.0%0.0%
AR3270327-32713.5%13.5%
IN2460246-2460.0%0.0%
ND2220222-2220.0%0.0%
SC808-80.0%0.0%
Figures are from September 5, 2022, to September 18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Six Dem Candidates Top Senate Advertisers in Past Two Weeks

The Wesleyan Media Project is also tracking ad spending in Senate races for a wider set of venues beyond broadcast television.  This includes satellite and local cable TV along with digital advertising on Facebook and Google.  Table 3 reports those totals for the past two weeks, focusing on candidate spending only (including any coordinated spending with the political parties).  The top six candidate spenders were Democrats.

Senator Raphael Warnock is the top candidate spender, with a little over $5 million in spending since September 5.  About 60 percent of that spending ($2.98 million) was on broadcast television, with another $1.22 million on other television and radio.  Digital ads on Facebook and Google constitute 16.7 percent of Warnock’s spending over the past two weeks.

Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in Arizona is second on the list, with $4.74 million in ad spending, followed by John Fetterman in Pennsylvania.  Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, seventh on the list, spent just under $3 million in the past three weeks, making him the top-spending Republican candidate.

Some candidates in competitive Senate races are notable for their relative lack of ad spending, including J.D. Vance in Ohio (about $900,000 in ad spending), Ted Budd in North Carolina ($580,000 in ad spending) and Blake Masters in Arizona ($80,000 in ad spending).

The variation in digital spending is also compelling, especially for top spenders.  While Warnock and Fetterman have committed about 16 percent of their ad spending to Facebook and Google ads in the past two weeks, Mark Kelly (6.3 percent), Marco Rubio (4.2 percent), and Ron Johnson (5.1 percent) have allocated far less to those platforms.

Table 3: Spending by Senate Candidates Across Sources (September 5-18)

SponsorStatePartyBroadcast TV
Cost (in $Ms)
Other TV & Radio
Cost (in $Ms)
Facebook Cost
(in $Ms)
Google Cost
(in $Ms)
Total Cost
(in $Ms)
Digital %
Warnock, RaphaelGADEM2.981.220.30.545.0516.7%
Kelly, MarkAZDEM3.490.950.090.214.746.3%
Fetterman, JohnPADEM2.480.710.290.323.816.0%
Demings, ValFLDEM2.390.460.210.253.3113.9%
Ryan, TimOHDEM2.170.460.140.293.0714.1%
Barnes, MandelaWIDEM2.240.210.140.433.0218.9%
Rubio, MarcoFLREP2.370.490.030.12.994.2%
Johnson, RonWIREP1.940.740.050.092.835.1%
Hassan, MaggieNHDEM1.790.750.040.052.633.4%
Oz, MehmetPAREP2.360.020.010.142.535.9%
Beasley, CheriNCDEM1.360.560.010.152.077.4%
Masto, Catherine CortezNVDEM1.10.530.040.081.767.2%
Walker, HerschelGAREP0.90.690.050.081.77.2%
Laxalt, AdamNVREP0.620.7400.041.392.7%
Bennet, MichaelCODEM0.950.230.070.081.3311.6%
Vance, JDOHREP0.670.1700.070.917.9%
Kennedy, JohnLAREP0.570.30.010.010.92.9%
Murray, PattyWADEM0.440.230.020.140.8319.5%
Smiley, TiffanyWAREP0.570.060.020.030.676.5%
O'Dea, JoeCOREP0.360.260.020.020.665.8%
Budd, TedNCREP0.410.1200.040.588.3%
Paul, RandKYREP0.230.270.020.010.535.7%
Blumenthal, RichardCTDEM0.250.2400.020.53.7%
Franken, MichaelIADEM0.20.090.110.020.4331.3%
Murkowski, LisaAKREP0.080.120.010.020.2311.0%
Grassley, ChuckIAREP0.2100.010.010.236.4%
Lee, MikeUTREP0.180.0200.010.228.1%
McMullin, EvanUTUN0.160.040.0200.217.4%
Young, ToddINREP0.050.080.010.050.1931.6%
Boozman, JohnARREP0.160.02000.180.0%
Crapo, MikeIDREP0.060.1000.160.4%
Scott, TimSCREP0.020.060.020.010.1227.3%
Masters, BlakeAZREP0.050.0200.010.0812.9%
Hoeven, JohnNDREP0.070.01000.070.8%
Wyden, RonORDEM00.010.010.010.0465.4%
Tshibaka, KellyAKREP0.010.01000.0218.6%
Duckworth, TammyILDEM000.0100.02100.0%
Welch, PeterVTDEM0000.010.02100.0%
Booker, CharlesKYDEM000.0100.01100.0%
Busch Valentine, TrudyMODEM000.0100.01100.0%
Bolduc, DonNHREP00.01000.0152.5%
Schumer, ChuckNYDEM0000.010.01100.0%
TV and radio figures are from September 5, 2022, to September 18, 2022. Figures include coordinated spending between candidates and parties.
Numbers include broadcast television, local and national cable, radio, and satellite television.
Facebook figures are from September 4, 2022, to September 17, 2022.
Google figures are from September 4, 2022, to September 17, 2022.
Spending figures smaller than $5,000 will show as $0 in this table.
Table includes candidates heading into the general election with at least $5,000 in total spending across these sources.
Candidate status provided by OpenSecrets and the Wesleyan Media Project.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG (for TV and radio) and the Google and Facebook Ad Libraries (for digital) with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Taken as a whole, the numbers in these tables highlight that GOP Senate candidates are relying much more heavily on the support of outside groups. In Table 4, we show broadcast airings in Senate races by sponsor over the last two weeks, including party and group spending.  Senate Leadership Fund has invested heavily in recent weeks on behalf of Republicans in Senate races, including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Nevada.  Of the 14 non-candidate sponsors in Table 4, ten are supporting Republicans.

Table 4: Top Senate Race Advertisers on Broadcast Television (September 5-18)

SponsorStateAiringsEst. Cost
(in $Ms)
Warnock, RaphaelGA5,2352.98
Ryan, TimOH4,6342.17
Barnes, MandelaWI4,4561.28
Fetterman, JohnPA4,2632.48
Kelly, MarkAZ3,7783.49
Masto, Catherine CortezNV3,6131.10
Beasley, CheriNC3,4721.36
Demings, ValFL3,4112.39
Rubio, MarcoFL2,7182.30
Senate Leadership Fund (pro-GOP)PA2,6974.15
Senate Leadership Fund (pro-GOP)GA2,6883.71
Senate Leadership Fund (pro-GOP)OH2,6763.22
White Mountain PAC (pro-GOP)NH2,3763.02
Oz, MehmetPA2,2991.99
Senate Majority PAC (pro-Dem)WI2,1892.14
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)AZ2,1092.84
Senate Leadership Fund (pro-GOP)WI2,0932.13
Senate Leadership Fund (pro-GOP)NC2,0203.38
Johnson, Ron & National Republican Senatorial CommitteeWI1,9481.27
Georgia Honor (pro-Dem)GA1,9302.77
Laxalt, Adam & National Republican Senatorial CommitteeNV1,5470.62
Hassan, MaggieNH1,4001.14
Wisconsin Truth PAC (pro-GOP)WI1,3961.57
Senate Leadership Fund (pro-GOP)NV1,3521.36
Senate Majority PAC (pro-Dem)NH1,3462.15
Figures are from September 5 to September 18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television.
Candidate-only spending is listed separately from spending coordinated between candidates and parties.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

CA-22 Tops for House Ads

Table 5 shows the number of ads aired in House races over the past two weeks.  Topping the list is California’s 22nd district, which has seen almost 9,000 ads since September 5.  Democrat Rudy Salas has benefitted from substantially more advertising than incumbent Republican David Valadao in this “tossup” race.  The WMP has also tracked heavy advertising in Michigan’s 7th congressional district, where Democrat Elissa Slotkin faces Republican Tom Barrett, and in Maine’s 2nd district, where Democrat Jared Golden faces Republican (and former incumbent) Bruce Poliquin.

Table 5: Volume of TV Airings in House Races (September 5-18)

StateDistrictAiringsPro-Dem
Airings
Pro-GOP
Airings
Dem
Advantage
% Group% pro-Dem
IG
% pro-GOP
IG
CA228,9046,5502,3544,19618.5%4.6%57.3%
MI73,9862,0071,9792815.5%10.1%21.0%
ME23,5031,8281,67515350.4%49.4%51.5%
NM23,4431,6711,772-10140.4%27.7%52.4%
MT13,2261,8101,4163943.0%0.0%6.8%
IA32,9921,6181,37424430.6%24.5%37.7%
WA82,9511,9151,03687952.4%26.7%100.0%
VA22,7691,82894188735.1%17.7%68.9%
NH12,5042032,301-2,09869.3%0.0%75.4%
IL172,3581,7665921,17457.8%62.5%43.8%
NE22,3091,0581,251-19317.9%0.0%33.1%
MI82,1511,19595623949.0%41.1%59.0%
CT52,0721,16790526262.1%32.6%100.0%
TX152,0482941,754-1,46040.0%0.0%46.8%
VA71,9681,7012671,43433.5%38.7%0.0%
MN21,8479628857755.4%21.5%92.3%
RI21,7861,4383481,09046.2%47.5%40.8%
PA81,762878884-646.4%41.2%51.6%
CA131,66289576712874.5%52.6%100.0%
TX281,5582801,278-99880.3%100.0%76.0%
CO81,5431,22332090320.7%0.0%100.0%
CO31,52801,528-1,5280.0%0.0%
KS31,47288958330645.4%39.8%53.9%
CA491,4551,16628987738.2%22.9%100.0%
MI31,4511,04340863528.1%0.0%100.0%
OR41,422722700220.0%0.0%0.0%
PA71,42077464612821.1%0.0%46.4%
IA21,372672700-2810.7%0.0%21.0%
AK11,3391,33901,3390.0%0.0%
PA171,33584549035532.3%0.0%88.0%
OR51,310462848-38664.7%0.0%100.0%
IA11,189565624-590.0%0.0%0.0%
OH11,16478438040410.9%0.0%33.4%
IN11,12779633146529.4%0.0%100.0%
OH131,111485626-14156.3%0.0%100.0%
NC11,0231,02301,0230.0%0.0%
OR69945824121700.0%0.0%0.0%
CA997497409740.0%0.0%
AZ6913268645-37723.8%0.0%33.6%
TX34855502353149100.0%100.0%100.0%
NV482082008200.0%0.0%
OH98027168663018.7%20.9%0.0%
NH276759617142574.3%67.6%97.7%
NC13690344346-20.0%0.0%0.0%
NV168868806880.0%0.0%
NY226533662877944.0%0.0%100.0%
MI106240624-62449.2%49.2%
NV35633302339741.4%0.0%100.0%
AZ25330533-5330.0%0.0%
WI35220522-52223.8%23.8%
NM350750705070.0%0.0%
MD649249204920.0%0.0%
CA414763051711340.0%0.0%0.0%
GA245145104510.0%0.0%
NY240840804080.0%0.0%
NY25379303762270.0%0.0%0.0%
WA53610361-3610.0%0.0%
CA4734334303430.0%0.0%
AZ4313253601930.0%0.0%0.0%
NY1927327302730.0%0.0%
NC621421402140.0%0.0%
FL132042040204100.0%100.0%
CA452010201-2010.0%0.0%
IL1319119101910.0%0.0%
NJ1118918901890.0%0.0%
NJ117817801780.0%0.0%

Las Vegas, Milwaukee Top Media Markets in Past Two Weeks

The Las Vegas, Nevada, media market has seen more House, Senate and governor ads than any other media market over the past two weeks—over 9,000.  Not only is there a competitive Senate race in Nevada, but the race for governor is close, and the state has at least three somewhat competitive U.S. House races.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has seen 8,800 ad airings in the past two weeks, an equal number of ads for the state’s Senate and gubernatorial races.  Over 8,400 ads have aired in the Phoenix media market over the past two weeks, the bulk of them relating to Arizona’s U.S. Senate race.

Table 6: Top Media Markets for Federal and Governor Ads

MarketSenateHouseGovernorTotal
Las Vegas4,9662,0712,2479,284
Milwaukee4,398724,3358,805
Phoenix5,8908461,6838,419
Portland, OR2552,3044,4056,964
Green Bay3,69612,8316,528
Fresno06,31906,319
Portland, ME1,5662,0802,3866,032
Reno3,99001,7695,759
Atlanta3,12902,5775,706
Boston3,9351,2634075,605
Albuquerque02,6712,7845,455
Philadelphia2,9791,5987115,288
Tucson3,1679137044,784
Hartford7792,0721,7524,603
Tampa1,6642042,4874,355
Providence01,7862,4984,284
Bakersfield04,24704,247
Denver1,2631,6411,3144,218
Wilkes Barre1,8731,7624154,050
Lansing03,2517473,998
Miami1,47402,5123,986
Orlando1,52602,4183,944
Des Moines9742,7801763,930
Savannah2,12901,7763,905
La Crosse1,9453341,5783,857
Figures are from September 5, 2022, to September 18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Record Breaking Attack Ads on TV in 2022 General Election So Far

In our prior release we noted that in the cycle-to-date through September 4, the tone of ads was comparatively more positive than in prior cycles.  But in the last two weeks, with general elections ramping up, the tone has shifted to more direct attacks on the opposing candidate. Indeed, the first two weeks of the general election in the 2022 midterms are breaking records in terms of the proportion of pure attack ads in both federal races and in gubernatorial races across the country.

Table 7 shows that more than half (nearly 55 percent) of all Senate ads are pure attacks compared to roughly four in ten in the 2018 midterms (41.7 percent). Much of the increase in negativity is being driven by pro-Republican advertising.  Sixty-two percent of pro-Republican ads in Senate races feature an attack, compared to just one in ten pro-Democratic ads.

Table 7: Tone of U.S. Senate Races (September 5-18)

 PromoteContrastAttack
201235.4%22.9%41.7%
201425.6%22.5%51.9%
201631.8%23.5%44.7%
201831.2%27.1%41.7%
202024.6%31.0%44.4%
202225.8%19.5%54.7%
Figures are from September 5 to September 18 for each election year,
and 2022 figures are based on ongoing assessments, which are subject to change.
Numbers include broadcast television.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Table 8 shows that the pattern in U.S. House advertising on television is similar, though rates of negativity are not as high as in the U.S. Senate. Roughly half of the 2022 U.S. House advertising in the last two weeks is a pure attack compared to only 31 percent in the 2018 midterms. Similar to the Senate, pro-Republican advertising is much more likely to be a pure attack (58 percent compared to 41 percent pure attacks for pro-Democratic ads).

Table 8: Tone of U.S. House Races (September 5-18)

 PromoteContrastAttack
201241.4%18.0%40.6%
201439.6%19.2%40.1%
201653.8%16.1%30.0%
201845.8%23.5%30.8%
202044.9%15.5%39.1%
202239.3%12.7%48.0%
Figures are from September 5 to September 18 for each election year,
and 2022 figures are based on ongoing assessments, which are subject to change.
Numbers include broadcast television.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Even gubernatorial ads are much more likely this cycle to be pure attacks compared to this same period in earlier midterms (see Table 9).  Fifty-one percent of gubernatorial ads in the past two weeks were attacks, compared to roughly 42 percent during the same two-week time period in 2014 and 2018.

“We’ve seen a notable turn toward the negative in the past two weeks,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.  “The heavy involvement of groups in advertising in 2022 is certainly one factor explaining the negativity, but the high stakes this year—either party could control the House or Senate—are also contributing to a more negative campaign.”

Table 9: Tone of Gubernatorial Races (September 5-18)

 PromoteContrastAttack
201435.7%19.4%42.1%
201836.1%20.9%42.9%
202228.5%20.5%51.0%
Figures are from September 5 to September 18 for each election year,
and 2022 figures are based on ongoing assessments, which are subject to change.
Numbers include broadcast television.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Eight Senate Contests See More than 60 Percent Attack Ads on TV in Last Two Weeks

Table 10 shows the percentage of negative (pure attack) advertising in each Senate race—and the percentage of those ads found in pro-Republican and pro-Democratic advertising.  More than three out of every four television advertisements in Alaska and Arizona are pure attack ads. In Alaska, most of the attacks has been from an outside group that has attacked incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. In Arizona, attacks on both sides are prominent, but are occurring more often in pro-Democratic advertising (80 percent compared to 57 percent).

Television viewers in North Carolina, Nevada and Georgia have seen pure attacks in nearly two out of every three ads, and in each of these contests, pro-Republican attacks are greater in proportion than pro-Democratic ones.

Attacks in New Hampshire comprise 64 percent of airings, with pro-Democratic attacks being slightly more prominent than pro-Republican ones (67 percent compared to 60 percent). Wisconsin and Ohio have also seen more than 60 percent pure attack ads on television, but in both of these contests pro-Republican attacks are much greater than pro-Democratic ones. In Wisconsin in particular, 90 percent of the ads favoring incumbent Republican Ron Johnson have solely attacked Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes.

Table 10: U.S. Senate Races by Proportion Pure Attack

StateAirings% Attack*Pro-DemPro-GOP% Pro-Dem
Attack
% Pro-GOP
Attack
AK81376%604209100%7%
AZ9,57476%7,6761,89880%57%
NC7,28467%4,5752,70962%75%
NV8,95666%5,4273,52964%69%
GA11,70565%7,1654,54062%71%
NH8,63364%4,3054,32867%60%
WI14,18063%7,1826,99837%90%
OH8,85963%4,6344,22558%68%
UT1,95647%01,34169%
IA1,86239%8879759%67%
PA11,32236%5,5565,76611%60%
WA1,84932%1,18166850%0%
FL7,60131%3,4114,1900%56%
CO1,78420%1,30248227%0%
AR3270%03270%
CT7790%77900%
ID6460%06460%
IN2460%02460%
KY6890%06890%
LA1,2270%01,2270%
ND2220%02220%
OR7060%70600%
SC80%080%
Figures are from September 5 to September 18 and are based on ongoing assessments,
which are subject to change. Numbers include broadcast television.
*Includes third party negative airings where relevant.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

AZ02, FL13, IN01, NY19 and TX34 100 Percent Attack Ads; CT05 88 Percent Attack

As Table 11 shows, five U.S. House races have seen solely attack ads over the past two weeks: Arizona’s 2nd district, Florida’s 13th district, Indiana’s 1st district, New York’s 19th district, and Texas’s 34th district. Connecticut’s 5th district has seen 88 percent attack while Texas’ 28th and Washington’s 8th are both over three quarters attack.

Table 11: U.S. House Races by Proportion Pure Attack

StateDistrictAirings% Attack*Pro-DemPro-GOP% Pro-Dem
Attack
% Pro-GOP
Attack
AZ02533100%0533100%
FL13204100%2040100%
IN011,127100%796331100%100%
NY19273100%2730100%
TX34855100%502353100%100%
CT052,07288%1,16790590%84%
TX281,55878%2801,27885%76%
WA082,95177%1,9151,03665%100%
CA131,66274%89576753%100%
TX152,04873%2941,7540%85%
IA032,99269%1,6181,37470%68%
MI082,15168%1,19595675%61%
MI031,45168%1,04340856%100%
CA228,90467%6,5502,35471%57%
Figures are from September 5 to September 18 and are based on ongoing assessments,
which are subject to change. Numbers include broadcast television.
*Includes third party negative airings where relevant.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

South Carolina, New York and Wisconsin Most Negative Gov Races

While pro-Republican advertising in the South Carolina governor’s race and pro-Democratic advertising in the New York governor’s race are solely responsible for putting their two states in the top two spots for most negative so far of the 2022 midterms, the Wisconsin gubernatorial contest, which ranks third at just under three quarters of all advertising being pure attack, features heavy attacks from both sides.

Table 12: Gubernatorial Races by Proportion Pure Attack

StateAirings% Attack*Pro-DemPro-GOP% Pro-Dem
Attack
% Pro-GOP
Attack
SC927100%0927100%
NY339684%300539195%0%
WI1019574%6130406579%67%
GA985471%5985386964%83%
PA272665%2726065%
NV401659%134426720%89%
IL375059%2621112957%63%
FL1392758%881130460%61%
MI466557%46461957%0%
AZ238753%187151640%100%
NM372153%2048167373%28%
KS478252%2457232545%60%
MN252049%219231356%0%
ME292242%1759116343%40%
TX1407139%5551852049%32%
OH374038%1248249237%38%
OR*935332%3448229622%2%
OK142832%97645247%0%
SD89529%3745210%50%
CT175218%8928607%29%
NH16115%946726%0%
CO250514%2489314%100%
RI247111%18296426%27%
AK50%00
AR7950%07950%
IA5090%05090%
MA6220%5051170%0%
Figures are from September 5 to September 18 and are based on ongoing assessments,
which are subject to change. Numbers include broadcast television.
*Includes third party negative airings where relevant; Oregon’s third party candidate
has sponsored 62 percent pure attacks.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Public Safety Becomes Big Issue in Senate Races

Over the past two weeks, public safety has been a prominent issue in U.S. Senate advertising with 27 percent of pro-Democratic ads mentioning the issue and 45 percent of pro-Republican ads talking about public safety.  Abortion is also a top issue in pro-Democratic Senate advertising, while the budget is the top issue in pro-Republican advertising.

Table 13: Top Issues in Senate Races by Party Lean (September 5-18)

IssuePro-Dem %IssuePro-GOP %
Public Safety27.1%Budget46.3%
Abortion22.5%Public Safety45.1%
Budget18.3%Immigration25.1%
Prescription Drugs17.5%Taxes24.1%
Health Care16.6%Economy22.6%
Manufacturing14.6%Inflation22.0%
Taxes14.0%Coronavirus14.2%
Jobs13.5%Drugs12.0%
Social Security10.5%Jobs8.8%
Trade9.6%Oil7.4%
Figures are from September 5-18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television for all sponsors.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

House Race Issues

Abortion is the top issue in pro-Democratic ads in the U.S. House, followed closely by healthcare and taxes.  Pro-Republican ads in the House, on the other hand, have emphasized the budget, the economy and inflation over the past two weeks.

Table 14: Top Issues in House Races by Party Lean (September 5-18)

IssuePro-Dem %IssuePro-GOP %
Abortion25.6%Budget46.1%
Healthcare25.0%Economy43.3%
Taxes24.5%Inflation42.2%
Cost of Prescription Drugs23.2%Oil25.6%
Budget19.3%Taxes25.0%
Oil15.0%Public Safety22.0%
Public Safety15.0%Immigration15.3%
Minimum Wage12.9%Corruption10.2%
Jobs12.5%Jobs8.9%
Economy12.3%International Affairs6.4%
Figures are from September 5-18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television for all sponsors.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Dem Gov Ads Again Emphasize Abortion; GOP Gov Ads Emphasize Budget

Abortion is the most prominent issue mentioned in pro-Democratic gubernatorial ads over the past two weeks.  Just over half of these ads make reference to the issue.  Pro-Republican ads in gubernatorial races have focused on the budget and public safety, two issues that appear in over half of such ads.

Table 15: Top Issues in Gubernatorial Races by Party Lean (September 5-18)

IssuePro-Dem %IssuePro-GOP %
Abortion50.1%Budget57.8%
Healthcare40.7%Public Safety52.6%
Education37.8%Education31.3%
Budget36.4%Taxes26.6%
Taxes31.6%Coronavirus24.3%
Women's Rights31.4%Economy22.0%
Economy16.9%Inflation20.7%
Jobs14.3%Jobs19.5%
Public Safety12.8%Drugs15.0%
Housing11.4%Oil11.9%
Figures are from September 5-18, 2022. Numbers include broadcast television for all sponsors.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

About the Data

For television ad totals, data reported here from Kantar/CMAG (unless otherwise specified) refer to broadcast television. All cost estimates for television are precisely that: estimates.

For Facebook ads, data come from the aggregate reports, which provide spending information for each page name and disclaimer combination. Totals in this report reflect spending between January 6, 2021, or September 3, 2022, and September 17, 2022. These totals are calculated by subtracting the reported cumulative spending (as reported by Facebook as the total spent since May 2018) for the September 17, 2022 report and subtracting the cumulative spending reported for January 5, 2021, or September 3, 2022.

In Table A (click here to download), we list the page names/disclaimer rows from the Facebook aggregate reports that we identified for this report. It is possible that we missed some spending from a Facebook page affiliated with a candidate or group. This is exacerbated by the absence of EIN or FEC identifiers in the Facebook reports.

For Google ads, we downloaded the weekly reports from the platform’s Transparency Report. The totals reflected in this release are current as of 9/20/22, the day on which we pulled the transparency report. Google only includes spending in federal and state races and only includes weekly totals but lists the sponsor’s EIN or FEC committee ID. Google spending is from the following time periods: January 6, 2021 or September 3, 2022 and September 17, 2022.

In Table B (click here to download), we list the advertiser name for all entities used in this report to calculate Google spending totals.

About this Report

The Wesleyan Media Project provides real-time tracking and analysis of all political television advertising in an effort to increase transparency in elections. 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, professor of government at Wesleyan University, Michael M. Franz, professor of government at Bowdoin College and Travis N. Ridout, professor of political science at Washington State University. WMP personnel include Laura Baum (Associate Director), Breeze Floyd (Research Coordinator), Pavel Oleinikov (Associate Director, QAC), Markus Neumann (Post-Doctoral Fellow), and Jielu Yao (Post-Doctoral Fellow).

Data are provided by Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.  The Wesleyan Media Project is partnering again this year with OpenSecrets, to provide added information on outside group disclosure and candidate status.

The Wesleyan Media Project’s digital advertising tracking is supported by the contributions of students in Delta Lab, an interdisciplinary research collaborative focusing on computationally-driven and innovative analyses and visualizations of media messaging.

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: media@wesleyan.edu.

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. For more, visit www.wesleyan.edu.