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TV Advertising Data Reveals Groups Adopting Differing Strategies in Alito Confirmation Battle

January 26, 2006

For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Contact Information:
Dorothee Benz, 212 998–6318
Jesse Rutledge, Justice at Stake, 202 588–9454

TV Advertising Data Reveals Groups Adopting Differing
Strategies in Alito Confirmation Battle

NEW YORK AND WASHINGTON, DC Conservative and liberal interest groups fighting a battle over the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court have adopted starkly different strategies at least when it comes to their paid television advertising campaigns according to new data released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign. The data shows the groups combining to spend slightly over $2.5 million for and against Alito since his nomination on October 31. While nearly double the amount spent for and against Chief Justice John Roberts, the figure is nonetheless much lower than many had predicted. The data is complete through January 22, which includes the full week of the confirmation hearings.

Conservative backers of Alito dedicated nearly the entirety of their advertising budget throughout the process to buying airtime on national cable networks such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. They sought to promote Alitos credentials and to defend him from his liberal critics in their spots. Supporters spent virtually no money targeting individual senators with television ads, though the Family Research Council announced this week that it is launching a late round of radio ads directed at Democratic senators from red states like Arkansas, Louisiana and South Dakota.

Conservative groups backing Judge Alito rarely deviated from their message that the nominees qualifications alone made him suitable for the Supreme Court, said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. When they did, it was only to attack the Judges critics.

Opponents of Alito also invested in national cable advertising, particularly during the week of his hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But they also spent nearly one of every three of their advertising dollars targeting states with senators who have been identified as swing voters on the Alito nomination. Critics continued to spend heavily on TV ads in Maine and Rhode Island, home to three moderate Republican senators. Starting the week of the hearings, they also ran ads in Ohio, presumably in an effort to sway Republican Senator Mike DeWine, who is regarded as being in a tough re-election campaign in 2006. Alitos opponents also targeted Arkansas and Colorado, home to a number of conservative Democratic senators, in an effort to shore up Democratic no votes on Alito.

Liberal groups focused their TV dollars on potential Senators in target states, rather than trying to convince the general public that Judge Alito was outside of the mainstream, said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake. Their ads focused mostly on hot button issues like abortion and wire-tapping.

The data for the project is gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks the nations top 100 broadcast markets and national cable advertising and provides estimates on the cost of each TV spot.