Updated Oct 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' abortion ad blitz

Note: Democratic groups include DNC, DSCC and DCCC. Republican groups include RNC, NRSC and NRCC; Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Democrats are pouring millions into Facebook ads about reproductive rights leading up to this year's midterms, according to new data, while Republicans are focused on the economy and Donald Trump.

Why it matters: Abortion rights have proven to be a hot-button issue for Democrats down-ballot, helping the party rally voters amid attacks about inflation and the economy.

Driving the news: Democrats have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads about abortion in the past three months, according to an analysis by Axios using data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.

  • The data measures ad spending from the three major Democratic committees (DNC, DSCC, DCCC) compared to the three major Republicans committees (RNC, NRSC, NRCC).
  • Democrats began spending heavily on reproductive rights messaging with a blitz in late June following the Supreme Court's vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. The data shows a steady increase in spend leading up to the election.

Between the lines: Facebook ads are typically used for fundraising and list-building, and as a result, far more money is typically spent on local broadcast ads to actually persuade voters. But data suggests Democrats' focus on abortion extends to TV.

  • New data from the Wesleyan Media Project, a university-backed political ad research group, finds that the top issue mentioned in ads in Senate races across broadcast TV nationally from Sept. 19 through Oct. 2 was abortion.
  • Data from AdImpact, an ad analysis firm, analyzed by Politico, found that Democratic candidates, party committees and allied super PACs have spent nearly $18 million to air more than 100 abortion-centered broadcast TV ads in battleground states through the end of September.

The other side: While Democrats focus their messaging on abortion, Republicans are trying to remind voters about the state of the economy.

  • According to Wesleyan Media Project, the top issues referenced in Republican Senate ads on television have been the budget and taxes.
  • The GOP has also been leaning into ads about public safety and crime in key battleground states, per NBC News.

Neither party is wasting many dollars talking about Joe Biden.

  • Republican committees have largely stopped buying Facebook ads talking about Biden, per the Bully Pulpit data. Democrats have also distanced themselves from the president on Facebook, the data shows.

The big picture: Democrats have out-aired their Republican counterparts on broadcast television across nine of the top 10 most competitive Senate races, thanks to an unprecedented level of outside spend from super PACS and outside groups, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

  • From Sept. 19 to Oct. 2, the top six Senate candidates by total spend across all mediums (digital and television) were Democrats, per the report.
  • Republicans have a slight lead over the number of TV ads aired in competitive House races.
  • When it comes to gubernatorial races, Democrats still lead Republicans in terms of spend across broadcast TV across competitive gubernatorial races, but the advantage is less consistent, per Wesleyan Media Project.
  • While Beto O’Rourke is supported by an outsized number of broadcast ads in Texas, thanks to large investments from outsized groups, Charlie Crist has seen hardly any investment compared to Republican Ron DeSantis in Florida.

What to watch: More political ad dollars are rapidly shifting to streaming, where candidates can use data to target voters more narrowly.

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