If you're a voter in Ohio, Colorado, or Virginia, it probably won't surprise you to learn that a recent study by the Wesleyan Media Project found that 2012 has been a record-breaking year for political advertising. Swing states have been inundated with a barrage of campaign ads from candidates and causes alike, as Ohio voter Andy Schuster explains. Schuster says the amount of money being thrown at swing states in this election is "shocking." And though $1,000 is being spent per undecided voter, "I've never heard anyone say that it would have affected how they were voting," he says.
Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and professor at Bowdoin College, discusses the astronomical amount of money devoted to advertising by both Governor Romney and President Obama, and whether this makes a difference in key swing states. Democrats have increased their ad spending by 438 percent since 2008, while Republicans have upped their ad spending by 954 percent.
"This is the most expensive presidential election in American history," Franz says. "So I think that sort of exacerbation is to be expected, given the number of ads that are being thrown at voters."
"Both candidates have opted out of the general election public funding system, which frees them to raise as much money as they can, and the super PAC phenomenon, after the Citizens United case, has allowed outside money to flood the system."
And the target is not just undecided voters. Much of what ads aim to accomplish is actually reassuring the base. "Obama knows quite well that there are scores of voters across the country who were enthusiastic about him in 2008, but who are on the fence about him in 2012," Franz says. So part of the goal is to make sure those voters remember why they supported the president in the first place.
"The ads sort of provide a little bit of a boost at the beginning, they remind people of the stakes, they remind people who's running and what issues are being debated," Franz says. "But then after that, ads are a little bit about keeping you high, so to speak. If the ads went away, that high would disappear, so the ads are about keeping you at a particular level, until you actually walk into the ballot box."