Reporting from Washington — In the two years since President Obama’s healthcare legislation became law, $262 million has been spent on television advertising about the law, with opponents outspending proponents more than three-to-one.
Since March 23, 2010, the day Obama signed the bill, a total of 410 advertisers have spent $204 million airing 1,018 individual ads mentioning the legislation in a negative way, while 48 advertisers have spent $58 million to air 90 ads that were positive, according to data compiled by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
The discrepancy reflects the vast coalition of well-funded groups that have mobilized against the law. A list of recent top spenders shows that the campaign against it has been funded by a number of nonprofit groups that don’t disclose the identities of their donors.
But it’s unclear how much all that secret money has affected public opinion of the law. A recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that 47% percent say the law should be expanded or kept as is, while 41% say it should be repealed or replaced with a Republican alternative.
In January 2011, 43% said it should be repealed or replaced.
Since the presidential campaign kicked into gear last July, seven entities have spent more than $1 million airing ads against the law, but only two – a “super PAC” backing Rick Santorum for president, and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign – are required to disclose the source of their funds. The other five – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and four social welfare organizations – have spent a combined $14 million.
In that same time period, more than $11 million was spent by the Department of Health and Human Services on a public awareness advertising campaign. The department accounts for two-thirds of the $58 million spent by supporters in the past two years.
That might explain why the spending figures show little overlap in media markets.
Opponents have focused their resources in swing-state markets such as Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Orlando and Tampa, Fla. Meanwhile, more than $36 million worth of ads supporting the bill have aired on national network and cable channels.
With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments next week in a case challenging the constitutionality of the law, the advertising figures show that “one side has made a much bigger investment toward winning the argument with voters,” said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of Kantar Media’s CMAG.
“For the law’s supporters, closing the gap in advertising would require not just more spending and different targeting, but the sudden boost of a court victory,” Wilner said.
Four in 10 Americans say they believe the law has already been overturned by the Supreme Court or are unsure whether it has, according to the Kaiser poll.
Top-spending groups since last July include the Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $6.3 million airing 10,656 spots; Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which spent $2.8 million on 6,918 spots, and 60 Plus Assn., with $2.4 million spent on 2,447 spots. The three groups were among the most aggressive advertisers in the 2010 midterm elections.
Two years later: Foes of Obama healthcare law outspend supporters