Skip to main content Skip to navigation
CAS in the Media Arts and Sciences Media Headlines

The big lessons of political advertising in 2018

By: Travis Ridout, WSU professor of political science, Erika Franklin Fowler, and Michael Franz

The 2018 midterm elections are in the books, the winners have been declared and the 30-second attack ads are—finally—over.

Travis Ridout.
Ridout

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.

What role did political advertising play in the 2018 midterm elections? Here are our top observations.

Find out more

Salon

Midterm’s geographic divide renews interest in unlikely plan to split Washington in two

The notion of splitting Washington state in two has been around for decades. But the idea has attracted renewed attention since the election, when the state once again split ideologically along geographic and urban-rural lines.

Cornell Clayton.
Clayton

The role of some extremists “sort of legitimizes what we would otherwise call these hair-brained ideas,” said Cornell Clayton, a government professor and director of the Foley Institute of Public Policy at Washington State University. “People have to consider it more seriously.”

“I wonder myself whether they’re serious about it, or whether or not they’re using this as more a symbolic gesture to rally people behind their ideas,” Clayton said.

For years, Spokane Valley’s controversial representative to the state legislature has introduced bills that would create the 51st U.S. state – Liberty.

Liberty is the dream of Washington’s far-right: a libertarian bastion where residents don’t have to worry about liberal West Coast voters enacting tougher gun control laws or raising taxes. The plan would split Washington roughly along the Cascade mountain range.

Clayton doesn’t think any Seattle-area progressives or liberals have seriously considered the proposal, but it might actually be more appealing to them, he said.

“From their perspective, the eastern side of the state is a financial drag. The tax situation is that the western part of the state subsidizes the eastern part of the state,” he said. “There should be more incentive for them to want to see some kind of devolution or separation.”

Find out more

The big lessons of political advertising in 2018

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.

Travis Ridout.
Ridout

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:

Find out more

WTOP

Ballots not cast can still sway elections

Washington elections officials might be duly proud that the 2018 midterm had near-record voter turnout and more ballots cast than any other elections save the last two presidential contests.

Behind the positive news that nearly 72 percent of the voters cast some 3.1 million ballots, however, there’s a negative: Almost 30 percent didn’t vote, and more than 1 million ballots that were mailed out didn’t come back.

This in a state that for years has worked to make it easier to register, by mail, online and in person. Washington arguably makes it easier to vote than any other state.

Democrats may be courting the types of voters who are least likely to cast ballots, said Cornell Clayton, who teaches government and politics at Washington State University, where he serves as director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service.

“It’s typical that Democratic voters don’t turn out at the same level as Republicans, especially in midterms,” Clayton said.

Democrats tend to make their appeals to younger voters and lower-income voters, both of whom may be more mobile than average, he said. While the turnout for younger voters might have been up this election, it was probably well below that of older voters, who tend to back Republicans in recent years.

Find out more

Spokesman-Review

Ferguson details pushback against White House

Washington attorney general has gone 15-0 against the Trump administration in federal court decisions

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson takes great pride in his legal staff, but he credits President Donald Trump with much of the state’s recent success in suing the federal government.

Speaking to a packed house at Washington State University’s Foley Institute on Thursday, Ferguson said the Trump administration’s frequent defeats in the federal court system the past two years stem largely from its own inability or unwillingness to follow the letter of the law. The Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service is administered through the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences at WSU.

“This [Trump] administration doesn’t go through a very rigorous process of review before taking action,” he said.