Political Advertising Spend Breakdown - 2012 & 2016 Election Cycles

Goals

To determine the political advertising spend for the 2012 and 2016 election cycles, broken down by type of media, and in the case of social media, by platform.

Early Findings

  • Total political ad spending in 2016 increased by 4.6% over 2012, with the portion spent on digital advertising increasing from 1.7% to 14.4% of the total, more than any other form of media.
  • Digital ad spending for the 2016 election cycle equaled $650 million, with ads ran primarily on Facebook and Google.
  • Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent a combined total of $81 million on Facebook advertising during the 2016 election cycle.
  • An estimated two out of every five dollars spent on digital advertising in 2016 went to social media platforms. Facebook received more of this ad spending than any other social media platform.
  • Broadcast TV political ad spending decreased from 58% of total ad spending in 2012 to 45% in 2016. Even with this decrease, the total amount spent on broadcast TV political ads was three times greater than the total amount spent on digital political advertising.
  • Broadcast TV political ad spending for the 2012 election equaled $3.8 billion.
  • Broadcast TV political ad spending for the 2016 election equaled $4.4 billion.
  • Political advertising on local cable channels for the 2016 election equaled $850 million.
  • Newspaper political ad spending also decreased from 7% in 2012 to 6% in 2016.
  • A reported $280 million was spent on political advertising during the first quarter of 2016
  • Approximately $8.86 billion was raised during the 2015-2016 election cycle, broken down as follows: presidential candidates, $1.54 billion; congressional candidates, $1.64 billion; party committees, $1.63 billion, and PACs, $4.05 billion.
  • The total amount spent during the 2015-2016 election cycle equaled approximately $8.68 billion, broken down as follows: presidential candidates, $1.53 billion; congressional candidates, $1.60 billion; party committees, $1.57 billion, and PACs, $3.98 billion. .

Proposed next steps:

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As the initial research has provided some of the requested political ad spend breakdown for primarily the 2016 election, we recommend continued research for the remaining 2016 data and for the same data for 2012, as it is available. This data will include the total amount spent, the breakdown of spending across media types, and a further breakdown of digital media by both digital (Google,etc) and social media platforms.
Additionally, we recommend looking to how the patterns of political ads used during the last two presidential elections. By patterns, we are referring to the topics of the ads, the format of the ads (eye catching and mildly informative, actually informative, ads that attack the opponent, ads the tout the accomplishments of the candidate being supported, etc) and other major differences between ads used during the 2012 and 2016 election cycles.