Trump, Steyer Talk Impeachment in Ads

Groups Mention Impeachment Issue In House Races;
Total Ad Spending Approaches $300 Million in Presidential Race

(MIDDLETOWN, CT) December 19, 2019 – A new analysis from the Wesleyan Media Project in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics shows that impeachment is largely absent from discussion in paid presidential television ads—with two major exceptions (Table 1). Since October 1, Donald Trump has spent over $4.4 million on 4,594 ad airings that discuss impeachment—fully 99.2 percent of his campaign’s airings. (Between the start of the year and October, he aired just 36 ads on broadcast television or national cable, none of them mentioning the prospect of impeachment.) At the same time, Tom Steyer has spent $8.5 million on 18,847 ads mentioning impeachment, which constitute 18 percent of his ad airings since declaring his candidacy. These ads do not count the efforts of Need to Impeach, the super PAC founded by Steyer (from which he has stepped down), which aired over $3 million in ads during the first half of the year that called for Trump’s impeachment. The pro-impeachment group, Defend American Democracy, has spent under $100,000 on ads speaking to the topic.

[This analysis does not contain Google spending. See the About the Data section for more information.]

Table 1: Airings and Spending on Impeachment TV Ads in Presidential Race

SponsorAirings about
Impeachment
% Airings About
Impeachment
Spending on
Impeachment
Steyer, Tom18,84718.2%$8,546,810
Trump, Donald4,59499.2%$4,418,280
Defend American Democracy10100%$91,190
Castro, Julian2754%$8,960
Democratic Coalition1100%$2,460
Numbers include ads aired on national network, national cable and broadcast television between January 5 and December 14, 2019. Numbers include any ads from groups that mention a candidate up for election in 2020. Thus, even ads that ask members to vote against impeachment or for/against specific legislation are counted in our analysis as election-related.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Impeachment has been mentioned more frequently in races for U.S. House (Table 2). The group American Action Network has aired ads in about twenty House races, attacking Democrats for their support for the impeachment investigation. The group has spent over $2.3 million on this effort. Meanwhile, America First Policies has spent about $660,000 on ads that attack Democratic House members for participating in a “witch hunt.” Presidential Coalition, another anti-impeachment group, has spent $380,000 in House races, while the pro-impeachment Defend American Democracy has spent $178,000.

“It seems that Republicans are going on offense when it comes to the issue of impeachment, while Democrats are remaining mostly quiet on the issue,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “The one exception here is Democrat Tom Steyer who has long advocated for impeaching the president.”

Table 2: Airings and Spending on Impeachment TV Ads in House Races

SponsorAirings about
Impeachment
% Airings About
Impeachment
Spending on
Impeachment
American Action Network7,04594.2%$2,365,500
America First Policies, Inc.1,845100%$664,000
Presidential Coalition836100%$382,670
Defend American Democracy642100%$178,590
National Republican Congressional
Committee (NRCC)
5<1%$3,950
Moveon.Org11100%$1,350
Numbers include ads aired on national network, national cable and broadcast television between January 5 and December 14, 2019. Numbers include any ads from groups that mention a candidate up for election in 2020. Thus, even ads that ask members to vote against impeachment or for/against specific legislation are counted in our analysis as election-related.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Impeachment is largely absent from advertising in Senate races, as Table 3 shows. Bradley Byrne, a Republican running for Senate in Alabama, has mentioned the issue in all 340 of his ad airings, as has the pro-Steyer group Need to Impeach, which has run ads this fall in Maine, Iowa, and Arizona, urging Republican Senators Susan Collins, Joni Ernst, and Martha McSally to “put country over party.”

Table 3: Airings and Spending on Impeachment TV Ads in Senate Races

SponsorAirings about
Impeachment
% Airings About
Impeachment
Spending on
Impeachment
Byrne, Bradley340100%$56,200
Need to Impeach (Maine)122100%$21,600
Need to Impeach (Iowa)126100%$35,220
Need to Impeach (Arizona)419100%137,160
Numbers include ads aired on national network, national cable and broadcast television between January 5 and December 14, 2019. Numbers include any ads from groups that mention a candidate up for election in 2020. Thus, even ads that ask members to vote against impeachment or for/against specific legislation are counted in our analysis as election-related.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Bloomberg Surpasses Steyer in TV Ad Spending, Avoids Early States

In the few short weeks since Michael Bloomberg entered the race, he has spent a whopping $76.3 million on television ads (Table 4). This total is $3.5 million more than the $72.8 million spent by Tom Steyer since July and roughly triple the amount spent by Steyer between November 16 and December 14. Overall, presidential candidates have spent nearly $178 million on TV with $111 million of it occurring in the period from November 17 through December 14.

Table 4: Presidential TV Ad Spending by Candidate (After November 16 and Full Year)

SponsorAirings after
Nov 16
Total
Airings
Spend after
Nov 16
Total
Spend
Bennet, Michael01,565$0$843,185
Biden, Joe1,7503,331$760,955$1,771,885
Bloomberg, Michael77,73677,736$76,320,349$76,320,349
Bullock, Steve465809$252,567$402,475
Buttigieg, Pete3,3487,363$1,944,685$4,692,270
Castro, Julian050$0$23,500
Delaney, John61,431$24,800$543,230
Gabbard, Tulsi01,302$0$488,270
Harris, Kamala0810$0$402,845
Klobuchar, Amy5151,828$293,583$1,155,483
Sanders, Bernie5,87411,891$2,690,567$5,387,590
Sestak, Joe0103$0$56,200
Steyer, Tom23,003103,327$25,512,701$72,755,854
Trump, Donald04,630$0$6,735,939
Warren, Elizabeth2,4072,951$1,036,574$1,358,924
Yang, Andrew6,8588,181$2,880,760$3,948,652
Numbers include ads aired on national network, national cable and broadcast television between January 5 and December 14, 2019, and between November 17 and December 14, 2019.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

“Bloomberg is spending an astonishing amount of money on television advertising, and interestingly, he isn’t focusing exclusively on the Super Tuesday states that vote on March 3,” said Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “Florida, Illinois and Arizona, for instance, don’t vote until March 17.”

As shown in Table 5, and in contrast to the other candidates, who have focused their spending on the early primary and caucus states, such as New Hampshire and Iowa, Bloomberg has concentrated his spending elsewhere.  Top media markets for Bloomberg are Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle.

Table 5: Bloomberg TV Ad Spending by Market (Top 20 Markets)

Media MarketAiringsEst. Spend
Miami1,688$2,300,000
Los Angeles1,614$4,300,000
San Francisco1,532$2,700,000
San Diego1,487$962,680
Seattle1,459$1,300,000
Sacramento1,350$1,100,000
Dallas1,316$2,300,000
Chicago1,265$2,300,000
Washington DC1,239$2,200,000
Denver1,228$1,100,000
Orlando1,180$1,200,000
Charlotte1,160$814,340
Phoenix1,153$1,000,000
New York1,122$3,400,000
Houston1,049$1,900,000
Yakima1,011$139,220
Minneapolis1,004$799,540
Boston1,002$1,000,000
Jacksonville982$353,590
Philadelphia971$1,800,000
Numbers include ads aired on broadcast television between November 23, 2019—the date on which Bloomberg first aired a presidential ad—and December 14, 2019.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Outside Groups Dominate Senate Race Spending

Television advertising related to the 2020 U.S. Senate races has started to ramp up, and independent groups are doing the bulk of the spending (78 percent of airings on behalf of either Democrats or Republicans).  For instance, as Table 6 shows, more than $5 million has been spent in Arizona’s Senate race for the seat held by Republican Martha McSally.  Just over $4 million has been spent on the North Carolina race—most of it coming from Republican groups—while just under $4 million has been spent in Maine, where Susan Collins is defending a Senate seat. 

So far, $37 million has been spent on ads in 2020 Senate races—and $24 million of that total has been spent by Republican groups, compared to only $8 million in spending by Democratic groups. 

“At this early stage, Democrats are being outspent by Republicans in key Senate races in Kentucky, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “Even Democratic incumbents that one might think are relatively safe, such as Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, are facing an onslaught of ads.”

Table 6: TV Ad Airings and Spending in Senate Races

StateAd
Airings
Est. Ad
Cost $
Dem
group $
Rep
group $
Dem cand
spending
Rep cand
spending
%
Group
ME12,751$3,951,210$1,284,410$1,287,780$659,250$719,77066.7%
AZ8,468$5,115,860$2,599,350$2,516,510$0$0100.0%
KY8,270$3,420,040$372,350$1,603,780$1,090,510$160,00044.7%
IA6,092$2,821,240$283,460$1,282,780$15,270$038.4%
NC5,658$4,049,230$772,010$3,277,220$0$0100.0%
CO5,126$3,886,430$2,179,060$1,707,370$0$0100.0%
MI4,434$3,185,150$714,780$2,470,370$0$0100.0%
TX3,083$1,578,650$0$1,578,650$0$0100.0%
AL2,231$1,074,890$0$902,290$0$172,60061.8%
MN1,920$2,268,110$0$2,268,040$0$7099.9%
GA1,598$2,957,550$55,560$2,901,990$0$0100.0%
LA1,206$672,570$0$672,570$0$0100.0%
NH787$1,100,960$0$1,100,960$0$0100.0%
MT481$95,120$0$95,120$0$0100.0%
VA391$716,820$0$716,820$0$0100.0%
SD346$90,260$0$90,260$0$0100.0%
AK318$55,530$0$55,530$0$0100.0%
MS60$49,820$0$49,820$0$0100.0%
TN22$6,520$0$0$0$6,5200.0%
AR17$1,880$0$0$0$1,8800.0%
SC2$370$0$370$0$0100.0%
TOTAL63,261$37,098,210$8,260,980$24,578,230$1,765,030$1,060,84078.0%
Numbers include ads aired on national network, national cable and broadcast television between January 5 and December 14, 2019. Numbers include any ads from groups that mention a candidate up for election in 2020. Thus, even ads that ask members to vote against impeachment or for/against specific legislation are counted in our analysis as election-related.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

Presidential Candidate Spending on Facebook Approaches $75 Million

Candidates running for president this year have spent more than $11 million on Facebook in the past month and nearly $75 million total. As indicated in Table 7, although Trump has spent the most in 2019, Michael Bloomberg topped spending in the past month, with $3.15 million in spending on the platform. Since mid-November, Tom Steyer has spent $2.8 million on Facebook, followed by Donald Trump ($2.1 million), Bernie Sanders ($972,000) and Elizabeth Warren ($941,000).

Table 7: Spending on Facebook Ads (Past Month and 2019 to Date )

CandidateSpending
(Nov 17-Dec 14)
Spending
(Jan 6-Dec 14)
Bennet$961$866,642
Biden$240,007$3,234,568
Bloomberg$3,150,622$3,161,128
Booker$170,286$2,194,608
Bullock$7,834$317,637
Buttigieg$600,703$6,253,658
Castro$13,422$1,828,757
Delaney$500$221,306
Gabbard$168,412$821,212
Harris$21,978$2,302,365
Klobuchar$70,739$2,151,241
Messam$0$11,015
Patrick$2,334$17,899
Sanders$972,816$5,407,644
Sestak$0$641
Steyer$2,878,896$12,913,399
Trump$2,105,823$18,785,203
Warren$941,623$5,394,802
Weld$0$25,510
Williamson$76,610$1,165,291
Yang$208,555$1,658,898
Need to Impeach$4,000$1,954,519
Figures come from the Facebook ad library reports. Spending covers the January 6, 2019, to December 14, 2019, period. Candidate numbers include spending by official campaign committees, leadership PACs, and joint fundraising committees. For some candidates, totals also include spending from their Senate or House campaign accounts. Candidates who dropped out of the race prior to our last press release (11/20/19)—and groups that did not air presidential-related ads in the past month but did earlier—are not listed, but candidate spending is included in the $75 million total. See “About the Data” section at the end of this report for more information on our methodology.

Figure 1 shows spending by week on Facebook by each of several candidates in the presidential race. In early October, Trump dominated Facebook spending, but his spending was soon after surpassed by Tom Steyer’s campaign. Steyer was the largest spender on Facebook until the end of November, when Michael Bloomberg launched a heavy Facebook ad buy. Steyer’s Facebook spending has fallen this past week to the level of Warren and Buttigieg, whose levels of spending on Facebook have held relatively steady over the past month.

Figure 1. Weekly Facebook Spending by Candidate (September 29 – December 14, 2019)

Digital figures come from the Facebook ad library reports and cover the period from September 29 to December 14, 2019. Candidate numbers include spending by official campaign committees, leadership PACs, and joint fundraising committees. For some candidates, totals also include spending from their Senate or House campaign accounts. Super PACs supportive of particular candidates are not included. See About the Data section at the end of this report for more information on our methodology. Estimates and data visualization work by Courtney Page-Tan.

Ad Spending Approaches $300 Million Overall in Presidential Race

Table 8 shows ad spending by medium in the presidential race. All told, sponsors have spent at least $299.9 million on ads in the 2020 presidential campaign. Broadcast television has accounted for 50 percent of spending at nearly $151 million, followed by Facebook, with $75 million in spending. Campaigns have spent $27 million on national cable, which constitutes 9.1 percent of spending, while another $12.9 million has been spent on local cable (4.3 percent of spending). Radio and satellite television make up a very small percentage of ad spending in the presidential race.

Note that the online ad numbers include current Facebook spending but do not include current Google spending (see the About the Data section for more information), so digital ad spending is underestimated.

Table 8: Presidential Candidate Ad Spending by Medium

MediumSpending% Spending
Broadcast TV$150,624,351 50.23%
Online (Facebook)$74,732,017 24.92%
Oneline (Google)*>$30,514,30010.18%
National Cable TV$27,370,605 9.13%
Local Cable TV$12,866,776 4.29%
Radio$3,189,281 1.06%
Satellite TV$581,694 0.19%
Total$299,879,024
Numbers include ads aired between January 5 and December 14, 2019 for television and radio and between January 6 and December 14, 2019 for Facebook.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG, Facebook Ad Library and Google Transparency Report with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.
*This Google spending figure is what we reported in our November release (January 6 through November 16). Please see the “About the Data” section for more information about why we are not updating Google spending in this report.

Figure 2 shows total ad spending across television (broadcast, local cable and national cable, and satellite), radio and Facebook for the presidential candidates still in the race (see the About the Data section for more information on why Google is currently excluded). Tom Steyer has spent the most—over $90 million—with the majority of that spending on broadcast television. Michael Bloomberg is close behind, with $80.5 million in spending. Trump’s campaign has spent considerably less—about $26 million—but the majority of that has been on Facebook advertising. Buttigieg and Sanders are closely matched in terms of ad spending, with each campaign spending about $13 million.

Figure 2:  Presidential Candidate Spending Totals (TV, Radio & Facebook)

Digital figures come from the Facebook ad library reports and covers the January 6, 2019 to December 14, 2019 period.
Candidate numbers include spending by official campaign committees, leadership PACs, and joint fundraising committees. For some candidates, totals also include spending from their Senate or House campaign accounts. Super PACs supportive of particular candidates are not included.
TV (including national network, national cable and broadcast) and radio data come from Kantar Media/CMAG and include candidate-sponsored ads between January 5, 2019 and December 14, 2019.
See About the Data section at the end of this report for more information on our methodology.
Data visualization work by Kevin McMorrow ’20.

Dark Money

In partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, the Wesleyan Media Project tracks outside group ad spending by the type of donor disclosure. We classify groups as full-disclosure groups (meaning they disclose contributor lists to the Federal Election Commission), non-disclosing dark money groups (which are not required to disclose publicly their donors; these are most often 501c4 non-profits), and partial-disclosure groups (those that disclose donors but also accept contributions from dark money sources).

Table 9 outlines the type of disclosure for groups sponsoring ads in federal races through December 14. We show also the totals aired by candidates, parties, and candidate and party coordinated spots. Presidential candidates have aired nearly 99 percent of all the ads in the primary phase to-date. In contrast, dark money groups have sponsored over 3 in every 4 ads in Senate races and one-third of ads related to House campaigns. All told, outside groups are responsible for the vast bulk of early advertising in congressional races.

“Outside groups have already run tens of thousands of ads that help set the dialogue around 2020 congressional races, yet most of these ad sponsors won’t tell us who paid the tab,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “Viewers should consider that when judging their credibility.”

Table 9: Federal Ad Sponsors with Disclosure Type

 PresidentSenateHouse
SponsorAds aired% of AiringsAds aired% of AiringsAds aired% of Airings
Candidate230,10998.5%8,90914.1%18,26737.2%
Coordinated00.0%00.0%5191.1%
Party00.0%00.0%8,40717.1%
Group (total)3,53354,35221,849
No disclosure9910.4%49,79178.7%16,38933.4%
Partial6160.3%00.0%1,8453.8%
Full1,9260.8%4,5617.2%3,6157.4%
Numbers include ads aired on national network, national cable and broadcast television between January 5 and December 14, 2019. Numbers include any ads from groups that mention a candidate up for election in 2020. Thus, even ads that ask members to vote against impeachment or for/against specific legislation are counted in our analysis as election-related. Disclosure categorization provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.
CITE SOURCE OF DATA AS: Kantar/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project.

About the Data

For the television ad totals, data reported here are from Kantar/CMAG and do not cover local cable buys, only broadcast television, national network and national cable advertising except where they are noted (in Table 8 and Figure 2).

For Facebook ads, data come from the aggregate reports. Aggregate report entries are provided for each page name and disclaimer combination. In early January 2019, Facebook did not include page IDs (a unique identifier) for each entry in the aggregate report. Because pages can have the same name, a unique identifier for each page would be required to definitively identify an aggregate report entry, which Facebook does not provide going backward. Therefore, we did our best to associate each entry in the January 5, 2019, report with a page ID, which we had access to through the library API. There may be some slippage if two pages associated with presidential candidates had identical names and disclaimers, but we believe these instances are rare for the set of ads covered in this report. We looked for pages attached to each candidate, including possible leadership PACs, joint-fund-raising committees, and affiliated Senate/House pages. To calculate our totals for this report, we used the 1/5/19 report and merged on the 12/14/19 report totals. In each report, Facebook provides the to-date totals for each row, which covers the full archive back to May 2018. We subtracted the 1/5 total from the 12/14 total to get the spending by page and disclaimer for January 6 through December 14, 2019. Pages can sponsor ads that are funded by different entities. We made the assumption that all spending by federal office-holders running for president in 2019 (e.g., Kamala Harris) was in support of their presidential campaign, even if some spending was reported from their House or Senate page or leadership PAC, especially because many of the leadership PAC spending occurred on the same pages as the campaign spending. We separate Tom Steyer’s totals from Need to Impeach because he is not currently an elected official, and Need to Impeach ran anti-Trump ads before Steyer announced his run for the Democratic nomination (Need to Impeach is also a super PAC). Advertisements run by pages known to be associated with presidential candidates are included even in instances where the ads ran without an appropriate disclaimer.

To produce the weekly graph of Facebook spending by candidate, we used our classification of page name/disclaimer entities described above to aggregate weekly spending totals. More specifically, we calculate weekly totals of spending on Facebook’s platform using the “All Dates” spending report posted to the Facebook Ad Library from Sunday to Saturday (Facebook does post a weekly spending report to their Ad Library; however, we use the “All Dates” report to remain consistent with data used in the WMP press releases). Weekly differences in spending (WS) are calculated from the current week’s spending (CW) minus the previous week’s spending (PW). For example, to calculate weekly spend for the week of November 3rd (11/3/19 to 11/09/19), we subtract the total spend by candidate from the 11/09/19 “All Dates” aggregate report and subtracted the total spend by candidate from the 11/02/19 “All Dates” aggregate report. There are four dates in which Facebook “All Dates” Saturday reports are missing as a result of inconsistent reporting from Facebook: 8/17/19, 8/24/19, 8/31/19, 9/7/19. The report for a fifth date (12/7/19) was posted on 12/9/19 to Facebook, but the spending in that report was millions of dollars lower than the 12/5/19 report (12/6/19 was never posted). Facebook acknowledged the error and took down the 12/7/19 report around 9am on 12/10/19 but did not replace it. For all dates where the Saturday file was missing, we took the information from the reports that were available in close proximity to the missing Saturday and used them to interpolate spending for Saturday. More specifically, we arrived at estimated figures for Saturday by subtracting the aggregate spending by entity available in the last available report before Saturday (LA) from the first available report spending total after the missing Saturday (FA) and dividing by the number of days between LA and FA to arrive at an estimated daily spend between the two dates (Δk). We then multiply that estimated daily spend (Δk) by the number of days between the last available report (LA) and the missing Saturday and add that total to the last available report spending by entity (LA).

In Table A (click here to download), we list the page names/disclaimer rows from the aggregated reports that we identified for this report. It is possible that we missed some spending from a Facebook page affiliated with a candidate running for office. This is exacerbated by the absence of EIN or FEC identifiers in the Facebook reports. A few disclaimers changed from being in all caps to proper case between this WMP report and previous reports.

For Google ads, we downloaded the weekly reports from the platform’s Transparency Report. As a matter of practice with all of the platform data, we try to replicate our prior spending figures when we are calculating numbers for a new release. In that process, we discovered discrepancies between the data we downloaded in November and the information available in the December download for the same dates. We have contacted Google about the issue, and they are actively investigating the problem although there is not yet a resolution. Rather than report on figures that we are not confident about, we have chosen to exclude Google spending from this report and will update the release with the accurate figures when they are available from Google.

About This Report

The Wesleyan Media Project (WMP) provides real-time tracking and analysis of political advertising in an effort to increase transparency in elections. Housed in Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center (QAC) – 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, associate 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 (Project Manager), Colleen Bogucki (Project Coordinator), Pavel Oleinikov (Associate Director, QAC), and Courtney Page-Tan (Post-Doctoral Fellow).

The Wesleyan Media Project is supported by Wesleyan University, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Democracy Fund. WMP is partnering again this year with the Center for Responsive Politics, to provide added information on outside group disclosure.

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 or (203) 644-7144

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 wesleyan.edu.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

About Democracy Fund
Created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, Democracy Fund is a foundation helping to ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Democracy Fund has invested more than $125 million in support of a healthy, resilient, and diverse democracy with a particular focus on modern elections, effective governance, and a vibrant public square.

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