Tracking Broadcast Advertising On Immigration

Publish:  Jun 21, 2013


By Kaitlin Sullivan

In his second inaugural address, President Obama declared that immigration reform is one of his top policy priorities for his second term. Heeding that call, Congress has been working diligently on bipartisan immigration legislation. The Senate is currently debating the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill with the goal of passing it by the July 4 recess. In the House, the Judiciary Committee has started to markup piecemeal legislation and a group of eight House members are still working to craft a comprehensive bipartisan bill. Given the focus on the legislation, both pro- and anti-immigrant groups have begun flooding the airwaves with ads.

Analyzing data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media and Analysis Group shows that, through June 19, 2013, estimated spending on broadcast media advertising in support of immigration reform has outweighed estimated spending by opponents by a ratio of 3 to 1. Immigration reform advocates have spent an estimated $2.3 million; opponents a little over $800,000.

California Endowment, a statewide health organization that seeks to expand access to affordable health care in California, is leading among the immigration advocates spending an estimated $969,980 on ads. Following closely behind are the AFL-CIO and SEIU COPE, spending an estimated $418,510 and $277,600 respectively.

NumbersUSA is the most prolific spender among immigration reform opponents. They spent an estimated $456,930 during the time period. As of June 19, only two other groups have spent money on broadcast ads opposing immigration reform: Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has spent $255,830 and Californians for Population Stabilization has spent $125,640.


Notably, both advocates and opponents of immigration reform have concentrated their ad spending in media markets in California. Groups have spent the most money in the Sacramento media market ($735,590) followed by Los Angeles ($401,770) and National Cable ($298,160). All of the ad spending in California may reflect the fact that the top spending immigration advocacy group, California Endowment, is based in California and thus targeting that audience. It could also correlate to the cost of running broadcast ads in the California media markets. According to an analysis by Media Strategies and Research, Los Angles is the most expensive media market followed by San Francisco-Oakland and Sacramento-Stockton

On the national level, there has been at least $500,000 spent already on national broadcast and cable, with another $1 million coming from SEIU’s recent ad buy.

When examining which media markets have had the highest spot count from the groups, there is a notable difference from where the most money is being spent. While California media markets are still among the top places, South Carolina, Washington, DC and Alaska also emerge as media markets with the highest spot count. Notably South Carolina and Alaska are home to some potential swing votes on immigration reform. In South Carolina, the South Carolina Conservative Action Alliance ran ads to support South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s work on the immigration bill. In Alaska, NumbersUSA ran ads attacking Alaska Sen. Mark Begich for supporting immigration reform and in response SEIU ran ads praising the Alaska delegation for their work on immigration reform.

As the immigration debate continues in the Senate and moves to the House, the effectiveness of these ads will be tested. Whether these ads are able to move swing votes in Congress will soon become evident, making this broadcast ad battle one to watch. The Atlas Project’s weekly issue digests will continue to track immigration policy at the federal and state level, including advocacy on broadcast television.