A new analysis of political ads quantifies what you probably already suspected: This year’s presidential race has been particularly nasty.
The Wesleyan Media Project analyzed 207,000 political ads aired from the beginning of 2011 until April 22 of this year, and found that almost 70 percent of the political ads run on broadcast and national cable television this year have been negative, with more of those ads coming from GOP-aligned groups than Democratic groups.
That is exponentially more negative ads than aired up to this point in 2008, the study reveals. Four years ago, fewer than 1 in 10 ads were negative.
The ads run by the candidates themselves are about equally anti- and pro-, with 52.5 percent of them negative and 47.5 percent positive. Interest groups, however, are battering opponents with negative ads this year. A whopping 86 percent of their ads run are negative.
The tally includes only ads run on broadcast television and national cable outlets, and excludes web ads.
Though the volume of ads run this year declined, that's likely due to the lack of a Democratic primary. The Project found that about $112 million was spent on just over 200,000 ads this year, compared to $190 million spent on just under 300,000 ads in 2008, when both parties had contested primaries.
Most striking, however, is the role outside groups have played in the ad war this year. Almost 60 percent of the ads were sponsored by outside interest groups. Compare that to 2008, when 96.6 percent of ads were run by candidates, and it's not hard to see how pivotal super PACs have been this cycle.
The survey shows that the Republican super PAC, Crossroads GPS, spent $12.6 million on 16,747 ads, most of which were negative ads against President Obama. Also in the top five in volume of ads aired were the Democratic National Committee, the conservative Americans for Prosperity, and the American Energy Alliance, which has run ads against Obama's energy policies before.
A super PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney hammered rival Newt Gingrich with negative ads like this one before the Iowa caucuses in January.