The Election's $3 Billion Price Tag

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, independent research group that tracks money in campaigns and elections, as of October 17, 2012, President Obama's campaign had spent $931,471,420 on the 2012 election, while Mitt Romney's campaign had spent $1,022,753,733. The candidates' spending, in conjunction with the nearly $1 billion spent by super PACs, will likely add up to $3 billion by the time the polls close today. While this seems like an absolute mountain of money, American's spent $8 billion on Halloween this year.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore's entire presidential campaign cost $120 million, while Republican nominee George W. Bush spent approximately $185 million. This year, Mitt Romney raised $111 million in just the first two weeks of October, while President Obama raked in $90.5 million in that time. 

What have the American people gained from the 17-month, $3 billion campaign? Stephen Dubner, author and host of "Freakonomics," explains. 

Last week, The Times of London considered some interesting election-related statistics and found that out of more than 10,000 articles published about the American election, only 0.21 percent addressed the needs of the poor in the United States.

The conclusion that was drawn was that middle class people vote, seniors vote, and even the young can be persuaded to vote, but on the whole, the poor don't vote. The Takeaway talks with Tavis Smiley, the host of The Tavis Smiley Show about the scant attention paid to the 15 percent of the electorate who are classified as poor.


Stephen J. Dubner and Tavis Smiley

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [6]

John Souza from Astoria, OR

People who do not vote also can complain that is what free speech guarantees. I want to complain about the notion that not voting somehow disenfrangizes a group of Americans to access their rights.

Nov. 07 2012 02:06 PM

This segment is asking the wrong question. What's important is not whether or not the campaigns influence the electorate by spending a lot of money, it's the fact that special interests buy the politicians because they believe they need a lot of money (and maybe the do ) to win elections.

Nov. 06 2012 03:22 PM
GwenEllyn from Salem, Oregon

This was a helpful conversation. Thank you. I would like a follow-up discussion about the role and impact of the media on elections. For example, the articles (for example in The Atlantic) that said no matter what happened during the first debate, the media would pump up the impact of Romney because they did not want a clear runner from the start with three more months of campaigning. It was in the media's interest to keep the debate going.

I want the media to REPORT the news and quit CREATING the news.

Nov. 06 2012 01:47 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

When I want a soda, I ask for Coke. If they say they don't have Coke, they have Pepsi...I always say,"O.K." and don't think about it at all after that.

Nov. 06 2012 01:42 PM
Chris M from Chinatown, NYC

If we accept the research that says a doubling of campaign spending amounts to a one percent increase in the popular vote then this in fact supports the assertion that spending is crucial to elections. This election may be decided by less than a 1% margin in crucial counties in battleground states. Let us also not forget that this is a resource allocation problem. If we accept the 1% per doubling of spending, neither presidential candidate has the option to underspend in any contested area. If one candidate spends a billion, the other only has the option to spend significantly less if he already holds a commanding lead. No one believes you can buy a presidential election outright in the US, but Dubner's arguments that campaign spending is not one of the major influences on election outcomes falls short.

Nov. 06 2012 09:29 AM

Were was all this vexing concern about spending five trillion of other peoples money in less than four years?

Does Obama's one billion dollars include the inappropriate use of the trappings of the Presidency for campaign purposes and the money spent to pander to various supporters?

Nov. 06 2012 09:27 AM

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