President Obama and his allies aired more TV ads in battleground states this month than Mitt Romney and his backers, despite being outspent by the Republican nominee and GOP party and PAC groups, according to a study released Wednesday.
The Obama re-election campaign and its supporters spent $77 million on 112,730 advertisements from Oct. 1 to Oct. 21, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes political ad spending nationwide. Romney and friends, by contrast, spent more cash - $87 million – on 15,000 fewer spots.
One reason: the Obama campaign reserved air-time at lower rates earlier in the season, while the Romney campaign pays as it goes, at a premium. Romney’s media strategists believe their approach works best because they have more strategic flexibility and, unlike Obama, they are guaranteed that a particular spot will run during precisely the program they intended because of the rates paid.
The study also confirmed what anybody who lives in Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Florida or Nevada could tell you: 2012 has blown up previous records for ad spending in presidential campaigns, with 915,000 ads airing during the general-election period, through last Sunday. That’s a 44.5 percent increase over 2008.
“When all is said and done, 2012 will go down as a record-pulverizing year for political advertising,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, a political scientist at Wesleyan University who is co-director of the media project. “What is especially striking is that the ads are concentrated on fewer markets than 2008, meaning that a smaller number of Americans have witnessed the onslaught of messages in the race for the White House.”
Denver, Las Vegas, Tampa, Cleveland, Orlando, Washington, Miami, Columbus, Ohio, Cincinnati, Norfolk and Richmond saw the highest volume of ads in the nation from Oct. 1 to Oct. 21. Experts believe that looking at the number of spots aired is the best way to measure the impact of an ad blitz, because of the differences in price in the different markets based on population.
The academics with the project – from Wesleyan, Washington State University and Bowdoin College – also analyzed the content of the ads and found that the Obama campaign has aired far more negative attack ads than the Romney campaign.
They found that 6.3 percent of the Obama ads were positive, 20.3 percent showed contrasts between the two candidates, and 73.3 percent were negative – or straight-up attacks on Romney and his record.
But 11.9 percent of Romney’s messages were positive, versus 52.1 percent that compared him to the president, and 36 percent that were negative attacks on Obama.