Raleigh, N.C. — Throughout the U.S. Senate campaign, WRAL News has been tracking broadcast television advertising using data from Kantar Media, a firm that counts each time a spot airs on an over-the-air television channel. How costly is NC's US Senate campaign?
The race between U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, and state House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, has been the most expensive congressional campaign of the cycle, according to a number of data sources. The Center for Responsive Politics says the overall cost of the race is $111.2 million, although that number doesn't include some money spent by the candidates, as well as some spending by nonprofit groups that will never be reported.
This chart counts each time a commercial related to the North Carolina U.S. Senate campaign airs on a broadcast television station. The data is provided to WRAL News by Kantar Media Services. Commercials included are those paid for by candidates and political parties, as well as those aired by third-party independent spending groups such as super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations.
But with Kantar estimating broadcast television spending by the candidates is somewhere around $69.2 million since Jan. 1, it appears likely that roughly two-thirds of the money raised and spent by candidates and outside organizations went to broadcast advertising.
Here are some quick takeaways from the Kantar data, both big and small:
- Of the 36 candidate, party and outside spending groups that bought air time during this race, Hagan bought the most number of spots – she has aired 18,430 individual ads throughout the state – and spent more than anyone else. Kantar estimates Hagan's ad spending is $10.8 million by herself, before any outside spending groups got involved.
- The estimates of Republican and Democratic spending on air time are roughly equal. Kantar fixes the spending by Democrats and their allies at $35.6 million since Jan. 1. Republicans and allied groups spent an estimated $33.7 million in that time.
- However, Democrats got more for their money. The race featured 60,401 spots by Democrats and allied groups from Jan. 1 through Nov. 2. Republicans aired only 46,363 spots. At least one big factor accounts for some of that difference. Hagan had more money in her own campaign account than Tillis did. CRP figures show Hagan's spending outpacing Tillis' 3-1. The Republican relied more on outside spending. Candidates pay a lower rate per advertisement than politically active nonprofits do, so Hagan was able to purchase more inventory for less money.
- 67.3 percent of all ads aired on broadcast television were explicitly negative, according to Kantar. Only 17.7 of all ads aired were entirely positive. The remaining 15 percent were "contrast" ads that compared two candidates and can be thought of as half positive and half negative.
The data for this chart is provided to WRAL News by Kantar Media Services. This bar chart shows the ESTIMATED spending in the U.S. Senate race by advertiser on broadcast television commercials. Kantar compiles these estimates based on air time and other information.