Congressional TV Ads

Tools and analysis of 2020 general election ads and spending for Way to Win, with data from Dailykos Elections and AdImpact.

Update: Greg Sargent interviewed the architect of this project, Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, and wrote up an excellent summary in the Washington Post, Can Democrats avoid the pitfalls of 2020? A new analysis offers striking answers.

The 2020 fight for the US Congress ended with a mix of good news and bad for Democrats. Democrats retained their majority, even while going zero for twenty seven in the the Cook Political-rated D and R tossup races. Centrist Democrats were quick to blame the left. Yet Republicans had publicly announced a strategy based on name-calling early in the cycle, in February of 2019. It seems possible that a more aggressive strategy to combat it could have been waged - an argument advanced by Justice Democrats and other groups in their preliminary 2020 analysis. While research alone will not lead to persuasive, powerful, and emotionally resonant ads, it is of particular necessity when communicating with exactly the kinds of divese audiences that proved pivotal in many districts. In many races, these groups of voters had been categorized as "mobilization" segments, and were thus deprioritized for spending and focus.

The good news is that Democratic leadership has already begun taking aggressive action to address these issues. When Rep Maloney was elected to run the DCCC, one of his first actions was to end the blacklist that had limited new consulting firms from competing. But given the historic challenges Democrats face in 2022, it's going to take a lot more than this. To support this effort, Way to Win commissioned a study of the overall 2020 message landscape. These interactive tools were one result.

Many thanks to Dailykos Elections Data for their excellent work, and to AdImpact for allowing these views of their datasets to be made public. If you'd like to inquire about their ad intelligence or obtaining copies of their data for post-cycle analysis, please contact John Link at AdImpact directly.

The interactive tables are not mobile adapted. Please view them on a larger screen. Please feel free to share screenshots from here or link to it, and credit "Way to Win analysis of AdImpact, DailyKos Elections, and Cook Political data by Dan Ancona."

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Explore The Big Table

This table includes results, district demographic data (based on Voting Eligible Population), urbanicity, as well as a series of PVI calculations. Click on the "Dem Spending Advantage" link to go to a detailed view of ads organized by issue for each district.

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Explore National Priorities

This is a view of all the ads by topic, organized by total overall national spending on each topic.

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Spending By Keyword

A view of all the ads, organized by keyword and how much was spent on them.

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Search Transcripts

If you want to search for specific ads or terms that may not be covered by the topic fields (i.e. "socialism" or "defund"), start here.

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2020 Congress Close Ones

A high res visualization of 109 close Congressional districts, including the House margin, Biden margin, and PVI, as well as urbanicity (based on Voting Eligible Population or VEP) racial demographics. (based on census data)

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Unknown Solutions

The previous image, but in the iconic style of the cover of Joy Divison's 1979 release, Unknown Pleasures. Many thanks to James Home for getting the design execution just right.