Sep 28, 2022 - Politics

Governor's race ads dominate Texas TV airwaves

States with the most political television ads
Data: Wesleyan Media Project; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Texas airwaves have the most political ads for a governor's race, according to a data-rich report by Wesleyan Media Project.

State of play: Campaign-season TV ads in Senate, House and gubernatorial races are breaking records for negativity, writes Axios' Mike Allen.

  • Much of the increase in negativity is driven by pro-Republican ads, according to the project, which is based at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Why it matters: A June poll by Gallup found that only 2% of Americans had a "great deal" of confidence in Congress. This election season's toxic blast could deepen public cynicism about Washington.

By the numbers: Texas edged out Florida for the most ads in a governor's race with 14,071 airings, compared with 13,927 in the Sunshine State.

  • Florida's skewed heavily toward pro-GOP advertising, whereas Texas was split more evenly, with 5,551 pro-Democrat airings and 8,520 pro-Republican airings.

Yes, but: No Texas city cracked the top 25 media markets for federal or governor ads.

Zoom in: Half of the pro-Beto O'Rourke advertising in a two-week period was paid for by Coulda Been Worse, which spent $6 million in TV ads that first aired Sept. 9.

  • The group has focused on Gov. Greg Abbott's initial claim that the mass shooting of elementary school children in Uvalde "could have been worse."

Details: More than 50% of the gubernatorial ads run across the country Sept. 5-18 were attacks, according to the report.

  • During the same two-week period in 2014 and 2018, only about 42% of the ads were considered to be attacks.
  • Fewer than 29% of the ads were promotional, compared with nearly 36% in 2014.

The intrigue: All the political ads in the race for the 34th Congressional District in South Texas are attacks, per the report.

  • Republican Mayra Flores won a special election for the historically Democratic seat this year and is facing a challenge from Vicente Gonzalez, whose advertising used racist attacks against the Mexican-born politician.

The big picture: Abortion remains a top topic for Democratic ads, while Republicans largely avoid the subject.

  • Public safety is a focal issue for the GOP.

Go deeper: Read the report, with state-by-state, market-by-market and even candidate-by-candidate breakdowns.

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