Report Confirms: Montana Among the Top Markets for Political Ad Buys

Nov 3, 2016

It’s NOT your imagination.  There are a lot of political ads airing right now on television. 

A national study released today by the Wesleyan Media Project found Montana ranked near the top in the volume of ads bought and airedin the gubernatorial and U.S. House contests.

MSU political scientist David Parker says one reason why Montana ranks so high in the volume of political ads airing right now is the lower cost.

“So you get a lot more oomph, you get a lot more purchasing power when you buy an ad here because it’s a lot cheaper than North Carolina, Missouri or Indiana,” he says.

Parker says there is a reason why Montana is ranked #4 behind those states, “I know that this is one of the states that the Republicans think nationally they have the best chance of flipping a seat,” he says. “So certainly I am not surprised at all that we are getting inundated with ads in the gubernatorial race.”

MSU Political Scientist David Parker
Credit Montana State University

Parker says Montana is on track to have the most expensive gubernatorial race in the state’s history.

He says incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock has largely been able to air mostly positive ads because outside groups are launching negative ads against his Republican challenger Greg Gianforte.

By contrast, the Bozeman businessman, along with outside groups, are mostly running contrast or negative ads against Bullock.

The Wesleyan Media Project report says nearly 56% of the ads in Montana’s gubernatorial contest are negative, ranking the state 3rd least positive in the country.

It’s notable Montana’s U-S House race is dominated more by positive political ads or at least those that contrast the positions of each candidate.

And the candidate who is leading in the number of those ad buys is the challenger.

“Who’s on air now? And who has more ads on?  And the answer is not what people expect,” he says. “The answer is Denise Juneau.”

Juneau is challenging Republican incumbent Ryan Zinke who is seeking a second term.

Parker says nationally, Democrats are putting more money into these races to try to take over control of the U-S House. “

For the Democrats to take over the House you’re going to have to flip a seat like Montana. That’s a likely Republican seat in a wave election. If this seat goes there’s a better chance, and a very good chance for Democrats to pick up the House on Tuesday,” he says

Montana ranks second, only behind a Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, in the volume of political ads on t-v.

Parker says in a geographically big state like Montana where there is only 1 member in the U.S. House, it makes sense to use television ads to reach voters.

The Wesleyan Media Project provides real-time tracking and analysis of political television advertising. It’s supported by grants from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Wesleyan University.