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Negative Ads Rule as Campaign Nears End, Study Shows

Oct 31, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As the presidential campaign moved into its closing weeks, negative ads continued to dominate the airwaves. But Barack Obama’s ads have turned more negative while Republican John McCain has mixed in some positive messages to his earlier all-out-attack strategy.
A study from the University of Wisconsin out today says that from Oct. 21-28, 63% of the Obama ads and 79% of the McCain ads were negative. In its previous report, about ads running from Sept. 28-Oct. 4, the project said 100% of the McCain campaign’s ads and 34% of the Obama campaign’s ads were negative.
The latest study doesn’t fully capture some of the dramatic upturn in ad spending this week as the Republican National Committee increased its buy and the Obama campaign ran its half-hour of network TV.
Still. it offers a snapshot of recent advertising.
The study says that from Oct. 21-28, $38 million in ads were run, with the Obama campaign spending nearly triple what the McCain campaign did, $21.5 million to $7.5 million.
Another $6.7 million in spending from the Republican National Committee on behalf of Sen. McCain lessened some of Sen. Obama’s advantage. All of the party ads were negative.
Another $2.2 million was spent by interest groups. 
The study also reported that the number of different ads run by the Obama campaign far exceeded the number run by the McCain campaign, 46 to nine.
About a third of both candidates’ ads included a picture of the American flag, though the economy was most often the main subject of ads.
As expected, most of the spending was in battleground states, but the study said more than three-quarters was in states that President George W. Bush won four years ago.
It also said that while the Obama campaign outspent the McCain campaign and the Republicans nearly 3-to-2 overall, there were some states where the margin was far higher.
In Nevada, Sen. Obama outspent Sen. McCain and the RNC by more than 2-to-1, while in Minnesota the Democrat’s margin was nearly 3-to-1. In Wisconsin, Sen. Obama outspent Sen. McCain and the RNC by more than 5-to-1. Sen. McCain and the Republican Party outspent Sen. Obama only in North Carolina and Iowa. 
Florida stations were the biggest beneficiary, receiving $6 million of the total spending. Pennsylvania was second.
The study also said the Obama campaign is on track to spent a record $100 million on broadcast TV in October.
Ken Goldstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and director of the project, said the heavy spending this year by the Obama campaign is rewriting the rules and not just for politicians.
“Political scientists usually think that presidential races are poor places to find advertising effects because both campaigns typically have similar resources and air ads in similar markets,” he said.
“The advertising advantage held by the Obama campaign this year puts us in unchartered waters. This year the spending is hugely unequal and, in some cases, the Obama campaign has massive advantages.”

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