It’s no secret that Democrats see abortion rights as a winning message on the campaign trail in 2024. The party is spending big with ads on the airwaves as Republicans struggle with how to frame the issue.
Democrats spent nearly five times as much money on abortion ads than Republicans in the past year, according to an AdImpact analysis of television ad spending.
→ From January 2023 to January 2024, Democrats spent a total of $75 million on abortion ads. Over the same period, Republicans spent roughly $17 million on ads focusing on abortion.
→ For Democrats, that translated to 246 unique ads and nearly 145,000 airings. Republicans ran 70 unique ads focused on abortion and 38,000 total airings.
The disparity is a dramatic illustration of the parties’ differing agendas. In some respect, it isn’t surprising that Democrats want to talk more about abortion in ads than Republicans. Following the reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022, abortion rights has consistently polled as one of the main issues on which voters favor Democrats over Republicans.
Case in point: Democrats won major victories in red states in 2023 while campaigning on abortion rights. Prime among them was Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s reelection triumph in Kentucky. A defining ad of the campaign featured a rape survivor who accused GOP opponent Daniel Cameron of wanting victims like her to have babies conceived out of incest.
Multiple states enshrined access to abortion in their constitutions through ballot measures in 2023, most notably in Ohio. Some of the Republican messaging didn’t even mention abortion in the run-up to the vote. In Ohio, the lead GOP group opposing the abortion rights amendment to the state constitution focused on drag shows rather than abortion.
Looking ahead: Some Hill Republicans have been trying to distance themselves from state policies advocating for strict abortion bans, while also standing firm that they’re against abortion as a whole. See our story on NRCC Chair Richard Hudson from last week for more on this.
The abortion ad spending gap is an indicator of the uncertainty among Republicans on how to frame their messaging. The threat of losing reproductive rights has energized women and young voters. Even some Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — have urged the party to fix its messaging on the issue, acknowledging that it’s been a winning cause for Democrats.
While Trump has boasted about his role in nixing federal abortion protections, he as recently as last week called for some “concessions” on the issue if the GOP is to win elections.
— Max Cohen and Mica Soellner