The volume of televised political advertising plateaued in 2014, as did levels of negativity. Yet the most interesting story about this advertising was the extensive involvement of outside groups, many of which did not disclose their donors. In many of the most competitive Senate races, groups surpassed the parties – and sometimes even the candidates – as the primary sponsors of political advertising. We speculate on what these patterns from 2014 are likely to mean for advertising in 2016.
We have many to thank for their assistance in making this research a reality, including Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project; Laura Baum, WMP project manager; and Robert McGuire of the Center for Responsive Politics, who provided us with the group disclosure classifications. We also thank our student research assistants at all three institutions for their tireless work, and we thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Wesleyan University for their financial support of the project.
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