Republicans Outspent Democrats On Jobs-Related Political Ads, Group Says
By Michael Rose
Republicans spent more money on political advertisements that referenced jobs than Democrats in the 2012 election cycle, in the presidential race and four competitive Senate races, according to an analysis released Nov. 13 by the Alliance for American Manufacturing and Kantar Media.
AAM, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes U.S. manufacturing and is supported by the United Steelworkers and manufacturing employers, commissioned Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group to provide an analysis of political ads related to employment and trade issues in the nationwide presidential race as well as in Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
During a teleconference with reporters, Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar Media said that “Republicans outspent and outaired Democrats” on ads that mentioned “jobs,” with Republican-sponsored ads typically portraying the Democratic candidate as the “Washington lawmaker” responsible for high unemployment or “job-killing regulations.”
By contrast, Wilner said, ads sponsored by Democrats “focused on businesses sending jobs overseas and otherwise shedding workers and destroying livelihoods.”
As a result, “the two sides’ spending and spot-count levels on jobs were closer to parity in the Presidential contest but much further apart in the Senate races,” Wilner’s analysis said, since former Gov. Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital on outsourcing jobs became a focus of ads in the presidential race.
Outsourcing a Frequent Theme
“Themes of outsourcing and ‘made in America’ came up in the Senate races but not to the same degree,” the analysis said.
According to Wilner, her firm used automated processes to assess the placement and spending figures of political ads, while live observers evaluated the content of each ad and classified them according to area of focus.
The detailed figures accompanying the analysis showed that in the presidential race between Romney and President Obama, ads sponsored by Democrats that mentioned jobs aired a total of 338,640 times, while Republican ads mentioning jobs had 452,408 on-air occurrences. The total number of occurrences of ads referencing jobs from both parties, some 791,000, was nearly three times as many as aired during the 2008 presidential race (approximately 286,000).
In addition, Wilner said that in the most recent presidential race, the number of Republican advertisements mentioning jobs would tick up around the time of the release of the monthly employment report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Democratic ads mentioning jobs typically would decrease around that time each month, Wilner said.
In monetary terms, Democrats spent a total of $219.8 million on ads mentioning jobs in 2012, compared to the $368.7 million spent by Republicans, the Kantar Media analysis said.
Democratic Ads ‘Sharper’
Given the fact that the Democratic incumbent held onto the presidency and that Democrats made gains in the Senate, however, Wilner said it was “not unreasonable to conclude that the Democrats’ message was more effective” even though the Democrats were outspent. The Democrats’ ads were “sharper” and “more impactful” than those of their Republican competitors, Wilner said.
Furthermore, Wilner said that factories were “the most widespread, nonhuman image” in political advertisements this year. On top of the fact that many battleground states were traditional industrial centers, such as Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, “the factory also owes its recent fame to the widespread view among voters of America as a country that makes and builds,” she said in her analysis.
The analysis also looked at advertisements dealing with trade issues, such as “getting tough on China” and currency manipulation, with Scott Paul, executive director of AAM, calling the focus on these issues “unprecedented, both in terms of volume and depth.” He drew attention to the fact that while in past election cycles China was seen more as a national security issue, in 2012 relations with China were seen more through an economic lens.
Wilner’s analysis also noted that ads featuring trade issues were seen in nearly every media market where political ads aired this year, and not just in typical manufacturing centers.
“Getting tough on China and investing in manufacturing plays well all over,” Paul said.
By Michael Rose
Text of Kantar Media’s analysis is available at http://about.bloomberg.com/blaw2/files/2013/01/Political-Ads.pdf.