Campaign Ad Dollars, Electoral Votes Get Calculations Correct

Popular vote polls -- those right before the election -- were off. And the reasons are complicated
They showed President-elect Biden beating Donald Trump by as much 10% nationally. Actual results, at press time, were around 4%.

But real return-on-media investment vis-a-vis campaign advertising spending was much more on target.

Biden beat Trump in electoral college vote: 306 to 232. The difference gives Biden 57% of all possible electoral college votes to Trump’s 43%. Now lets look at what was spent on the presidential campaigns. It broke down this way, according to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group:

One billion dollars for Biden ($661 million for Biden; $339 million from Democratic political groups). Trump was at $760 million ($500 from Trump; $260 million from Republican political groups.)

In all, $1.8 billion was spent on presidential advertising -- Biden spending comprised 56% of all presidential spending, Trump 43%.



Some may blame the polls for the misdirection about how easy Biden's victory should have been. But the podcast "Campaign HQ With David Plouffe" interviewed Biden's campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, who said internal polling showed the popular vote to be closer. She didn’t go into details.

That said, Biden’s win, as a Democratic contender, grew in the popular vote against Trump versus 2016.

Hillary Clinton beat Trump in 2016 by 3 million votes. In 2020, Biden is currently leading Trump by 6.3 million votes -- 80.2 million for Biden; 73.9 million for Trump (51.1% to 47.2%).

For the popular vote, it wasn’t a landslide. Still, a sizable win in the category — and that matters. That said, few if any elections these days, especially presidential elections are one-sided landslide affairs.

In 2012, Barack Obama won the electoral vote 332 to 206 over Mitt Romney; the popular vote was Obama 51.1% to 47.2% for Romney -- 65.9 million for Obama/60.1 million Romney --- a 5.8 million difference. In 2008, Obama won 69.5 million to McCain’s 59.9 million -- a 9.6 million difference. (52.9% to 45.7%).

Turnout was a major deal this time -- way more voters making decisions. But the percentage change between candidates has really change recently -- at least for Trump.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 -- 48.2% to Trump’s 46.1%. She got 65.9 million votes to Trump’s 63.0 million -- a 2.9 million difference.

Surely, big advertising money continues to be spent in those key battleground states — and where electoral votes are plentiful.

How much would this change if a President won by popular vote alone? Perhaps less money for local TV stations and more for national TV networks? That may be a cheaper way to go.

Would it help to take some of the money out of politics? Perhaps. Guessing bottom-line advertising ROI numbers would again tell the tale.

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