2018 Midterms the Most Expensive in US History

2018 Midterms the Most Expensive in US History

Created: 15 November, 2018
Last update: 21 November, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It’s official. This year was the costliest midterm election in US history. Outside spenders forked out $1.31 billion. That’s an increase of 61% over the 2014 midterms. The total over-all cost of $5.2 billion is a 35% jump over 2014.

The political advertising side of a campaign is a massive investment. Rhetoric filters into living rooms across America at all hours of the day and night, while a candidate gives a stump speech to a crowd of thirty.

According to Advertising Analytics, TV and radio advertisements racked up more than $3.27 billion in 2018, which more than doubles the $1.5 billion spent on midterm contests four short years ago.

Digging for Election Gold with Ad Dollars

If TV is still king of political advertising, then radio is a prince. Democratic candidates and groups spent $1.5 billion (52.3% of the total) on TV and radio, Republicans spent $1.3 billion (47.5%), and independents spent $5.8 million (0.2%).

The two most generous outside spenders in the nation were the Republican group, Congressional Leadership Fund, and the Democratic group, Senate Majority PAC. They spent $110 million and $105 million, respectively.

Republican messaging placed greater concentration on the economy and taxes. Democrats aired nearly 1 million broadcast ads centered on health care and outspent the GOP by a total of $100 million.

Exit polls show that more than 41% of voters said their number one issue was health care, and 69% said the current system needs "major changes."

Online 24/7

According to Kantar/CMAG, estimated online ad spending totaled about $900 million compared to about $250 million in the 2014 midterms. This relatively new medium is an operative’s dream, as it gives campaigns and financial backers the capability to adjust formats, messages, and styles rapidly.

They have greater access to voters too, crowding the screen on your device even as you stand in line at the polls. And this form of outreach comes with rock-bottom prices.

According to a study by New York University, advertisers representing federal candidates using Facebook spent $153-$600 per ad with an average impression of 1,100-4,800 each. Google had the higher prices, averaging $ 1,800 each, but handed over 6,300 impressions.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook made $354 million on 2 million ads. Its Ads Archive Report offers a breakdown of who spent what for political ads on its platform.

 More Money More Problems in Florida

The most expensive races in the country were Florida's $181 million gubernatorial race and its $171 million Senate race. Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott has been locked in a contentious recount effort since Election Day to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

The latest numbers show that Scott leads Nelson with a 12,562-vote margin. Federal courts are set to decide deadlines for recount procedures. And tight margins in the race for governor means a recount as well between Republican Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

Photo Credit: dnd_project / shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Lindsay France

Lindsay France covers the Whitehouse and business news for IVN. She is also the host of the podcast “The Business of Politics”. Previously she spent several years reporting on American politics and working as a foreign correspondent.