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Democrats are spending a record amount on ads about abortion rights ahead of the midterm elections

September 20, 2022, 7:47 PM UTC

With this year’s midterm elections in less than two months, Republicans and Democrats are spending huge amounts of money on their campaigns.

Democrats in particular have a lot to lose, with their control of Congress at risk. As a result, they’ve gone all-in on one issue as they try to win over voters: abortion. 

This year, Democrats have already invested about $124 million in TV commercials that directly references abortion, according to new data analysis by the Associated Press. That spending, the most they have ever dedicated to the issue, will likely pick up even more as the November 8 election draws closer.

The data, which the Associated Press acquired from the research firm AdImpact, shows that Democrats have spent 20 times more on abortion-related ads in 2022 than they did during the 2018 midterm elections. 

Earlier this summer, AdImpact estimated that campaign spending in 2022 has so far totaled about $4.88 billion for both parties, and is on pace to be the second consecutive election to surpass the $9 billion mark.

“With massive increases in political expenditures coming year after year, a new norm has been established in the world of political advertising,” the firm wrote in its report released in July. “It no longer takes a presidential ticket at the top of the ballot to push a cycle near the $10B threshold.”

It’s not only candidates or super PACS that have gone all in on spending. In August, Planned Parenthood announced plans to spend $50 million on midterm election campaigns—the most in the organization’s history.

In 2018, Democrats spent less than $6 million on ads relating to abortion. Instead, they spent $51 million on messaging focused on former President Donald Trump, $49 million on healthcare, and $46 million on education, per AdImpact’s analysis.

Democrats’ spending on abortion this year so far is greater than what Republicans have spent overall on ads referencing their major talking points including the economy, crime, and immigration, according to the analysis. 

As part of its methodology, AdImpact cataloged every time a campaign ad appeared on television, along with its estimated cost. 

Ad spending on abortion picked up following May’s leak of the draft Supreme Court decision that overturned reproductive rights case Roe v. Wade in June. In the months following the final decision, over a dozen states instituted measures to ban or severely restrict abortion access.

Recent events have proven that abortion can be a major motivating issue for voters. In August, reproductive rights were on the ballot during the Kansas primary in the form of a proposed amendment that, if passed, would have opened up the state to greater reproductive rights restrictions. Voters turned out in droves to reject it.

The Associated Press’ analysis shows that Democrats have already aired almost 70,000 ads referencing abortion in September, 15 times as many as their Republican counterparts, who appear to be trying to distance themselves from the issue.

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