By Erika Franklin Fowler, Wesleyan University; Michael Franz, Bowdoin College, and Travis N. Ridout, professor of political science, Washington State University
The 2018 midterm elections are in the books, the winners have been declared and the 30-second attack ads are—finally—over.
As co-directors of the Wesleyan Media Project, which has tracked and analyzed campaign advertising since 2010, we spend a lot of time assessing trends in the volume and content of political advertising.
Because we have television data that span a number of elections, we can provide detailed information on how prominent TV ads are overall or in any given location, how many different types of sponsors are active and how the content of advertising compares to prior election cycles.
Of course, television is not the only medium through which campaigns attempt to reach voters. But online advertising, which represents the biggest growth market, has been much harder to track.
Prior to May of 2018, for instance, social media giants like Google and Facebook did not release any information at all on political advertising, so tracking online advertising began in earnest only this cycle.
Although Americans frequently complain about campaign advertising, it remains an important way through which candidates for office can communicate their ideas directly to citizens, especially those who would not necessarily seek out the information themselves.
What role did political advertising play in the 2018 midterm elections? Here are our top observations: