Political Ad Spending

Goals

To identify the breakdown of political ad spending in the 2012 and 2016 U.S. elections, focusing on radio ad spending in order to identify possible opportunities for growth in radio advertising related to the 2020 presidential election.

Early Findings

  • Total spending on political ads for the 2016 election was $9.8 billion, up 4.6% over 2012.
  • Spending on radio ads for the 2016 election was $621 million, which was a 23% decrease from the 2012 election.
  • Based on the information above, we calculated that for the 2012 election, radio ad spending totaled $2.7 billion ($621 million/.23) and total spending on political was $9.4 billion ($9.8 billion/1.046).
  • Therefore, radio ad spending accounted for 6.3% ($621 million/$9.8 billion) of political ad spending in the 2016 election and 29% ($2.7 billion/$9.4 billion) of political ad spending in 2012.
  • Radio Ad spending for the upcoming 2020 election cycle is expected to be $400 million out of a total expected spend of $10 billion, accounting for 4% ($400 million/$10 billion) of spending.
  • By contrast, digital advertising made up 1.7% of the political ad spending in 2012, 14.4% in 2016 and an expected 20% in 2020. This amounts to $159.8 million ($9.4 billion*.017) in 2012, $1.4 billion ($9.8 billion*.144) in 2016 and an expected $2 billion ($10 billion*.2) in 2020.
  • Television ad spending was 58% of political ad spending in 2012 and 45% in 2016. This amounts to $5.5 billion ($9.4 billion*.54) in 2012 and $4.4 billion ($9.8 billion*.45) in 2016. In 2020, it is expected that spending on broadcast and cable television political ads will be $4.4 billion.

Proposed next steps:

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Our initial research identified the amount of money spent on radio, digital and television ads in the 2012 and 2016 elections as well as projected spending on these mediums for the 2020 election. We suggest continuing the research to identify a breakdown of how much specific political parties or candidates spent on advertising on each medium. For example, we will look for information on whether a specific candidate or party focused more heavily on a specific medium and, if available, specific figures related to how much was spent by the candidates or parties on radio, digital and TV ads.
We also suggest continuing the research to identify a breakdown of digital advertising spending for the 2016 election by platform with specific focus on how much digital advertising occurred on Twitter vs. other social media platforms to inform you on the impact that Twitter's decision not to accept political ads may have on digital advertising in the 2020 election.