Ad Age says in a new report that it has tracked $5.4 billion in political advertising spend across radio and television in the current election cycle.
But not all of that cash is spent on behalf of specific presidential, Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates. A total of $398 million, it turns out, are earmarked for ballot initiatives — “a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment,” says the political encyclopedia Ballotpedia. “Ballot initiatives are also called, depending on the state, popular initiative, voter initiative, citizen initiative or, simply, initiative. Twenty-four states allow ballot initiatives, which are a form of direct democracy.”
Such initiatives — there are more than 100 of them this year, spread across more than 30 states — cover a vast expanse of terrain. According to Ballotpedia, 18 measures in 14 states are related to election policy (campaign finance, election dates, etc.), while voters in 12 states will weigh in on issues that address tax policy.
Four states will be voting on whether to legalize recreational marijuana, while two others will consider medicinal initiatives.
According to the Ad Age Campaign Ad Scorecard, in partnership with Kantar/CMAG, nearly three-quarters of that money, or $292 million, will be spent on radio and TV in California. Several initiatives are in play in the Golden State, including Proposition 22, which would exempt app-based transportation companies like Uber and Lyft from a new state law requiring them to treat workers as employees. That hotly contested issue alone has generated $66.4 million in radio and TV spending so far.
Ad Age’s report notes that many ballot initiatives generate forms of spending beyond radio and television. In California, for instance, the fight of Proposition 22 has resulted in big spending on direct-mail advertising — by combatants on both sides of the issue.
“According to the California Secretary of State, the total spending behind Proposition 22 is roughly three times the TV/radio ad tally,” Ad Age’s report says.