Bloomberg News reports that the most talked-about issue in political ads this election season has been health care. According to data gleaned by Kantar Media/CMAG, health care has been mentioned in 45% of local media markets in 2018.
Bloomberg News analyzed over three election ads in 210 local television markets, finding that 16 topics are the subject of focus in political ads more than any others. Bloomberg News writes, “Just because a topic isn’t the top issue in a market doesn’t mean it’s not being discussed. Social issues for example, which include things such as civil rights and abortion, may be the most-mentioned topic in only six markets, but it’s mentioned at least once in 95 percent of all markets.”
As Bloomberg News reports, “A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health care is the top issue for midterm voters, so it’s no surprise that it’s been the most heavily-aired theme of the election. More than 1.2 million television ads have mentioned health care, with nearly 75 percent of those ads coming from Democrats.”
Democrats have been hammering away their message: protect Obamacare, while GOP ads have defended the termination of Obamacare while promising to protect pre-existing conditions.
The GOP has focused more on taxes; Bloomberg notes, “… more than 570,000 GOP ads have mentioned taxes—nearly double the amount aired by Democrats—making it the top issue for Republicans in 2018.” Those GOP messages have centered on the likely possibility that the Democrats will raise taxes in 2019 if they get control of Congress.
The heaviest number of ads have come in southeast Nevada, where GOP Senator Dean Heller is facing off against Democrat Jacky Rosen, and Central Florida, where two races are extremely close: the senatorial race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott, and the governor’s race between Congressman Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
The areas where the GOP had a much greater share of ads running were parts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, and Colorado. The Democrats were strongest in California, southwest Louisiana and Rhode Island.
Immigration was strongly advertised in states along the southern border, and also in one area of Kentucky. Agriculture was the most mentioned topic in Nebraska and central Louisiana. The budget was of concern in Utah; Bloomberg noted, “The budget has been the top issue in Utah, where voters will consider an expansion of Medicaid to 150,000 low-income Utahns by funding it with a sales-tax increase.”
If all these ads seem like more than you’d see in a typical midterm campaign, it’s because they are. The 3.5 million campaign ads that have aired so far this year (which includes ads that don’t get coded by Kantar Media/CMAG as having a particular issue mentioned) is almost one million more than aired during the 2014 midterms, and the total will increase as the last ads air before Tuesday … about 54 percent of ads have been funded by Democrats. Areas where both parties have campaigned heavily are signs of competitive races, with the final decision ultimately coming down to whose message resonated most.