Midterm election ad spending approaches $10B

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, November 10, 2022

By Sid Salter

The 2022 midterm congressional political advertising spend is projected at over $9.7 billion, up from the $5.95 billion spent in the 2020 congressional election cycle. The tracking was reported by AdImpact Politics.

The record spending on political advertising belies the country’s sharp partisan division, the tight margins separating control of the two houses of Congress – particularly in the Senate – and the intensity of partisan division heading into the 2024 presidential election.

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So why is the level of spending necessary? To be sure, control of Congress impacts every segment of the American economy and the social climate on a myriad of issues. A recent Pew Research Center poll aimed at both Democrat and Republican registered voters indicated that the top issues are the economy, the future of democracy, education, health care, and energy policy – and those issues resonated with voters from both parties.

The Pew poll identified a middle tier of issues that are surprising given the frequency and passion with which the issues are debated nationally including gun rights, voting rights, abortion, Supreme Court appointments, and immigration.

The same poll identified a third tier of issues that voters were concerned about that included climate change, racial issues, investigations into Donald Trump, investigations into President Joe Biden, and COVID.

The liberal Brookings Institution offered its list of top five issues in the runup to the midterms, which included inflation, abortion, climate, health care and education. The conservative Heritage Foundation put a harder focus on foreign policy issues – principally U.S.-China relations – along with crime, immigration, the economy and election integrity.

But regardless of partisan identification, it was clear Tuesday that 2022 was for most voters and particularly for voters who had identified as undecided voters throughout the midterm campaigns that this was a “pocketbook election” in which the combined impacts of the COVID shutdown, the global semiconductor shortage, resulting supply chain issues and the worst protracted round of inflation since the 1970s combined to produce angry, unsettled voters who weren’t particularly happy with either major party.

It is that dynamic that should concern both parties as they move toward 2024. The extremes of both the Republican and Democratic parties are fairly well entrenched on issues like abortion, gun rights and immigration, but middle-of-the-road voters are less so on issues like foreign policy, crime, education, health care and Social Security.

It is important to note after the midterms that neither Democrats nor Republicans are viewed favorably by a majority of voters. Another Pew poll shows that 41 percent viewed the Democrats favorably while 37 percent viewed the GOP favorably. At the same time. Some 47 percent of voters ages 18-49 wish there were more than two political parties to choose from.

What has been missing for much of the midterm election cycle is specificity. Solving inflation requires solutions that incorporate some of the root causes of rising prices. Food costs more because of supply chain shortages and high fuel prices. The war in Ukraine impacted global grain markets. The global semiconductor shortage is an issue that crosses multiple issue boundaries.

But in the primaries and carrying over to the general election, most of the political rhetoric has focused on more incendiary partisan issues. Brookings senior fellow Christopher A. Thomas wrote this month: “Semiconductors are the lifeblood of the digital economy. The semiconductor industry has moved to the foreground of political discourse both in the U.S. and other countries. The pushes from America’s economic rivals and the challenges faced by its domestic industry, coupled with supply chain shortages, prompted calls for the U.S. government to ‘do something’ to support the industry. The most visible response is the CHIPS Act, which allocates $39 billion in government funding for domestic semiconductor manufacturing facilities and billions more for semiconductor research and development (R&D) and workforce programs.”

Mississippi’s senior U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker made a courageous vote to support the CHIPS Act as a measure that takes a long and globally strategic view that America should not be dependent on our adversaries for computer chips – the building blocks of the global economy.

As we leave the 2022 midterms and plunge almost immediately into the 2024 presidential campaign, the partisan divide – on both sides – has become an impediment to advancing the quality of life for all Americans. Without that, the number of voters who reject both parties will grow and the two-party system that has served our nation will continue to struggle and stumble.


Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com