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A TV viewer’s guide to campaign ads

A look at the data in every single campaign ad spot

Last updated: Feb. 9, 2016 at 8:15 am

If you’ve spent any time watching television this year, you’ve likely seen more than a handful of ads related to the New Hampshire primary. Since Feb. 1, 3,279 political ads have aired in the New Hampshire market, which includes Boston.

The release of more political ads has continued as candidates sprint toward Tuesday’s primary, but television viewers have been subjected to the messages on the major broadcast networks locally a total of 18,971 times since December. If you haven’t kept track of what has aired, that’s 142 unique ads.

The big picture

Candidates Jeb Bush, a Republican, and Bernie Sanders, a Democrat, have aired the most spots since December, with 4,543 and 4,144 advertisements, respectively. Who haven’t we seen in local television ads? Ted Cruz. The Iowa caucus winner has barely put any media focus on New Hampshire, airing a meager 359 spots there since December.

These numbers reflect both ads sponsored by super pacs and the candidates’ campaigns. Since January, ads have aired at a fairly constant pace, without a significant increase in the number aired each day even as the primary approaches.

On the offensive

Candidates have largely used a positive message in their local spots. The ads that boost Sanders, in particular, have steered clear of negative attacks on his competitors. Attack ads have been more common among Republicans Bush and Marco Rubio.

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the most targeted candidate in attack ads, with those attacks stemming primarily from Republican candidates. Sanders has yet to be mentioned in an attack ad.

When (not) to tune in

If you haven’t seen many of these ads — or maybe feel that these ads are all you see — it might be because of which television shows you’re watching. If local news broadcasts have been at the core of your television diet, you’ve seen more ads than if you watched other programming. Daytime television watchers are a close second.

Here’s a head-to-head comparison of ads aired during late night, morning talk shows, game shows, and primetime.

Tell us what ads you’ve seen and how they’ve influenced your opinions. Tweet @globepolitical. Russell Goldenberg can be reached at [email protected].

Data for this story is available from the Political TV Ad Archive, a project cataloging campaign ads and their metadata.

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