New study found more political ads than coverage leading up to 2014 elections

A rendering of liberty bell over text that reads "Political Ad Sleuth Philadelphia"
Political Ad Sleuth Philadelphia is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation, the Internet Archive and the Committee of Seventy. (Graphic credit: Lola Fadojutimi/Sunlight Foundation)

A new report released today found that as the 2014 midterm elections wound down, political candidates and outside groups spent $14 million to run nearly 12,000 political ads at Philadelphia’s six major TV stations. The findings are part of a collaboration between Professor Danilo Yanich of the University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research and Service, Internet Archive, the Committee of Seventy and the Sunlight Foundation.

The study was based on an examination of political advertising and news broadcasts in the Philadelphia market, chosen for the pilot project because of its size and a coverage area that includes parts of three states. In 2014, important contests in the region included races for: Pennsylvania governor, a Delaware U.S. Senate seat, two open congressional seats in New Jersey and an open state Senate seat in suburban Philadelphia.

Internet Archive captured and analyzed ads and programming on Philadelphia stations, finding that two-thirds of political ads ran during news broadcasts. The Sunlight Foundation’s Political Ad Sleuth tool helped volunteers connect ads to actual contracts, indicating how much candidates and groups spent. Yanich and his research team looked at a representative sample of the broadcasts (390 of 1,256) and found that many of the political stories lacked real substance, instead focusing on describing candidates’ schedules and appearances. Yanich and his researchers found that on the broadcasts they analyzed, there were 18.7 minutes of stories, compared to 842 minutes of political ads, a ratio of 45-to-1.

Read the full report here. See the raw data for the project and the cache of ads here.