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Sinema and Manchin feel the heat as advertising ramps up
June 29, 20223 min read

GOP stays true to Trump in midterm messaging

The GOP is doubling down on their 2016 playbook, while the Democrats are backing off progressive messaging that attended their 2020 strategy.

We are at the halfway point for the 2022 midterms and ad spending is on pace to break all previous records. When assessing the messaging in campaign advertising, we can ascertain the issues that each party values and believes will bring them to victory in November.

When looking at Democrat messaging across all races, we determine that “budget/gov't spending” has garnered the most dollars$25.7 million. Invariably, this issue appears in two ways: calling attention to COVID-19 relief funds meant to ameliorate the effects of pandemic-related shutdowns and interruptions to the economy, as well as tapping into constituent concerns about inflation. “Social issues,” which touches on topics related to various civil rights, clocks in at second in terms of spending at $25.3 million.

Unsurprisingly, “healthcare”an issue that's been a Dem strength for decadesslots into the third position with $24 million in spending. “Jobs/unemployment,” which always figures prominently in any political ad campaign, comes in fourth with a $20 million expenditure. Rounding out the top five were ads referencing “abortion” with $18.8 million in ad spend. Though we forecast that spending related to this issue will increase as the general election approaches and the Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade.

2022 midterms election issues ad grid

When viewing the top five issues appearing in Democratic advertising from an airings perspective, the rankings are similar but slightly modified. Democrats are saturating the airwaves with their strongest issue: healthcarewhich saw 106,492 airings thus far in 2022. “Budget/gov't spending” comes in second with 101,583 occurrences and “social issues” lands in third position with 94,346 ad airings.

Creative mentions of “jobs/unemployment” nips at its heels with 94,259 occurrences while “public safety” (76,602)—tapping into bipartisan concerns regarding crime and policingcloses out the top five issues thus far.

The Republicans bear the unmistakable influence of Donald Trump in their ad messaging. Concerns related to “immigration”the issue that enabled the former president’s unlikely 2016 victoryhas seen the most ad spend with $45.5 million. Ads attacking President Biden [“Anti-Biden"] are a close second with $45.3 million in spending.

Much the same as the Democrats are doing (though to a greater extent), the GOP has aggressively messaged on concerns related to “public safety,” spending approximately $42.6 million on this issue in their ad campaigns. Spots boosting former President Trump [“Pro Trump”] came in fourth on this list with a $41.1 million expenditure. And ads referencing “budget/gov't spending”often coupled with inflation, specifically—fell in fifth position with $40.6 million spent.

When viewing these rankings from an airings perspective, themes are similar. Creatives touching upon “public safety” were the most heavily advertised so far this year with 237,597 airings. “Taxes”—though not figuring in the top five by spendingcame in second with 232,001 occurrences while “anti-Biden” spots slotted into third with 230,122 airings. “Budget/gov't spending” is close behind in fourth place with 230,099 ad airings while “immigration” closed out the top five with 229,218 occurrences. 

Reading between the lines, we can see a pattern emerging. The GOP is doubling down on their 2016-2020 playbook, essentially betting on a Trumpian strategytargeting immigration, concerns about crime and an unpopular president, all while harkening back to a similarly unpopular one. Democrats are backing off the progressive messaging that infused their 2020 election strategyless focus on “reimagining” the police, white supremacy and structural inequities and more focus on their traditional strengths like healthcare, access to abortion and jobs.


This resource was originally posted on In 2023, Kantar launched Vivvix, unifying the Advertising Intelligence businesses of Kantar and Numerator. Learn about the launch here.