The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

May 16, 2014

Study: Political TV ads on health law total $445M

CHICAGO — A new analysis finds the nation's health care overhaul deserves a place in advertising history as the focus of extraordinarily high spending on negative political TV ads that have gone largely unanswered by the law's supporters.

The report, released Friday by nonpartisan analysts Kantar Media CMAG, estimates that $445 million was spent on political TV ads mentioning the law since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Spending on negative ads outpaced positive ones by more than 15 to 1.

Outside of Social Security and Medicare, "no other law has come close to these amounts, much less within such a short period of time," said Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar Media. "It speaks to the intensity of the opposition among the ACA's political critics" and their belief that the health care issue will benefit their party in this year's elections, she said.

As the November midterm elections approach, the picture looks much the same, Wilner said, although a few pro-Democratic ads are countering with messages supporting the health law and a few pro-Republican ads have gone from a flat-out call for repeal to a message of replacing the law with "free-market solutions."

In the 2014 congressional races, 85 percent of the anti-Obama ads were also anti-"Obamacare" ads, the analysis found. In some competitive races, 100 percent of the pro-Republican TV ads aimed at Democrats contained anti-health law messages.

Over the four years, an estimated $418 million was spent on 880,000 negative TV spots focusing on the law, compared to $27 million on 58,000 positive spots, according to the analysis. Nearly all of the spending was on local TV stations, in races ranging from state offices such as treasurer and governor to Congress and the presidential election.

The analysis is the first attempt to quantify the spending, said Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health, who wasn't involved in the Kantar research.

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