Nov 8, 2018

What Did They Run On? Winning Issues in 2018 Midterm Advertising

Author: Deep Root Analytics

The dust is settling on Tuesday’s midterms, and narratives are already forming about what led to the Democrats reclaiming control of the House of Representatives.

At Deep Root Analytics, we’ve built a massive database measuring voter exposure to political advertising, including the content of all ads aired on broadcast TV during the entire 2018 election cycle. This allows us to explore some interesting questions, including what issues winning and losing campaigns ran on via their TV advertising.

Here’s the short version: Democrats ran on healthcare everywhere, and won a lot of races on the issue. Republicans that survived on Tuesday focused most on taxes and the economy.

When examining the data, the trend is clear: Democrats ran on healthcare nearly everywhere, and in 26 of the districts they picked up on Tuesday healthcare was the top issue to appear in Democratic advertising.

In 20 districts defended or picked up by Republicans (excluding Likely R and Safe R districts according to Cook Political Report), taxes and the economy was the top issue to appear in GOP advertising.

So while there was a general shortage of winning issues for Republicans in House races on Tuesday – as is evident by the swing of party control – running on taxes and the economy was the most likely issue to produce a victory for GOP candidates this cycle.

Districts picked up by Democrats where healthcare was their top issue in TV advertising: AZ-02, CA-48*, CA-49, FL-26, FL-27, GA-06, IA-01, IA-03, IL-14, KS-03, MI-08, MN-02, MN-03, NJ-02, NJ-03*, NJ-07, NY-19, NY-22*, PA-07, PA-17, TX-07, TX-32, UT-04*, VA-02, VA-07, WA-08*.

Districts defended or picked up by Republicans where taxes and the economy was their top issue in TV advertising: AR-02, FL-16, KS-02, KY-06, MN-01, MN-08, NC-02, NC-09*, NC-13, NE-02, NY-24, NY-27*, PA-01, PA-10, PA-16, TX-23*, VA-05, WA-03, WA-05, WI-01.

*In instances where the race has not been called, we classified using the predicted outcome via the New York Times.