"That is an extraordinary amount of money," Blendon said. "It's not just $20 checks."
Blendon said the advertising assault on the law draws on lessons Republicans learned during the Clinton administration about harnessing "the ambivalence the middle class has about big reform" to win midterm elections. More than other issues such as immigration, opposition to the Affordable Care Act unites Republicans and independent conservatives.
The Kantar system captures and counts ads and spending in all 210 TV markets and on national broadcast and cable; then analysts code the ads for content and messages.
Wilner, who presented the report Friday at a national meeting of public opinion researchers, said this will be the third consecutive election cycle in which the health care law has been a top issue in TV advertising, but it's the first one in which Americans have actual experience with the law as implemented.
With 8 million Americans choosing health plans on the new insurance markets, Democrats now have the opportunity to talk about the law's benefits, said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "It's easier to pivot to real positives about the law. You can say, 'Do you want to cancel 8 million people's insurance?'"
The analysis also counted other spending last fall and winter on health law TV ads by insurance companies, states and the federal government, which increased the total to $700 million.
"Within the span of the enrollment period, nearly as much money was spent on ads trying to sign people up for coverage as was spent over the past four years on ads trying to scare people away," Wilner said. But now that the enrollment period has ended, "they've left the field, and absent any big push by the law's political supporters, the critics have it to themselves again all the way to this fall."