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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

ACA Survives 880,000 ($418 million) Attack Ads

At the MaddowBlog Steve Benen’s “ACA withstands attack-ad onslaught” does a fine job of putting the GOP’s all-out assault against Obamacare in perspective. Benen quotes from a new study by Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, which reveals that “Spending on negative ads outpaced positive ones by more than 15 to 1.” Benen adds

…According to the report, ACA opponents have spent $418 million on 880,000 commercials, as compared to $27 million on 58,000 positive ads from the law’s proponents. This includes advertising on all local television markets, national broadcast networks, and cable.

Benen notes in an update that the government and insurance companies have spent $249 million for ads urging people to get enrolled. But that’s not the same thing as directly responding to the attack ads. He continues,

Assuming the research is accurate, it would help explain a few things. For years, there’s been a lingering question underscoring public attitudes on “Obamacare”: if the polls showed public demand for health care reform going into the reform fight; Democrats approved a moderate law built on bipartisan ideas; and polls show broad support for the law’s provisions, why does the public still disapprove of the Affordable Care Act?
Perhaps because they’ve seen some of the 880,000 attack ads.
In fact, maybe I’m the oddball on this, but given the one-sided advertising, shouldn’t the ACA be a lot less popular?

Benen concedes that “the Affordable Care Act isn’t winning any popularity contests,” but adds, “I hate to break this to the right, which has literally and figuratively invested so much in this fight, but after outspending proponents 15 to 1, the ACA is holding up pretty well when it comes to public attitudes.” Further,

Look, there’s no mystery as to why these ads aired in the first place: in general, television advertising is a very effective medium. When the right spends hundreds of millions of dollars to air misleading attack ads, desperately trying to convince Americans to hate health care reform, it’s going to have an effect. Indeed, most of the public won’t know better – they don’t follow politics closely; they’re not policy wonks; and they’ve been inundated with “You should hate Obamacare” messaging for more than four years. Clearly, this will turn a whole lot of folks against the law, even if these same people love the provisions of the law they claim to dislike.
But as a long-term proposition, conservatives must realize at a certain level that time is no longer on their side. They threw everything they had at “Obamacare,” up to and including outspending their opponents 15 to 1, and the law is still in the low- to mid-40s and is still growing more popular.

As Benen concludes, “That’s hardly a victory $418 million and 880,000 commercials later.”

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