Hate political ads? Skip morning shows

'Today,' 'Good Morning America' top draws for U.S. Senate message machines

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If you hate political advertisements, some advice: Give Matt Lauer, Robin Roberts and Charlie Rose the boot.

The nation's marquee network morning shows — "Good Morning America," "Today" and "CBS This Morning" — attracted more U.S. Senate race-focused ads during the 2014 midterm elections than any other television programs, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

The weekday version of ABC's "Good Morning America" led all comers, with nearly 30,000 U.S. Senate-focused ads during the 2014 election cycle. "Today" and "CBS This Morning" played host to about 27,000 and 25,000 ads respectively.

Republican candidates and political parties, super PACs and nonprofit groups supporting their races aired slightly more ads than their Democratic counterparts for each show.

"The hard truth remains that people wake up in the morning and turn on their televisions — and political groups know this," said Elizabeth Wilner, senior vice president for politics at Kantar Media Intelligence. "Years from now, if television advertising becomes less important to politics, the morning shows will be the last place where you will still find political ads."

Such an age is hardly imminent. In all, political candidates and groups aired more than 1 million U.S. Senate race-focused TV ads alone ahead of the 2014 midterms, as Republicans this month seized control of Congress' upper chamber.

Among non-news programming, game shows "Wheel of Fortune" (about 20,000) and "Jeopardy!" (about 18,000) and sitcom "Big Bang Theory" (more than 14,500) attracted the most U.S. Senate-specific ads.

Other shows that aired at least 11,000 U.S. Senate-focused ads during their time slots include "Live! with Kelly and Michael," "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," "Dr. Phil," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "Family Feud."

That daytime shows are so popular among political advertisers is hardly coincidence: An exit poll by Edison Research indicated that more than one-fifth of Election 2014 voters were of retirement age — 65 years old or older — and more likely to spend their days at home. More than two-fifths of voters were 45 years old to 64 years old.

Politicos' advertising choices didn't always match up with their ideology.

Democratic candidates and liberal groups advertised on the "Ellen" show slightly more than Republican candidates and conservative groups, although the latter still purchased more than 5,200 U.S. Senate-focused ads during the program.

That's notable since DeGeneres, who is openly gay and married to actress Portia de Rossi, has often been the scourge of some conservative activists, including the American Family Association and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who once dubbed her "Ellen Degenerate" upon her publicly revealing her sexual orientation.

More recently, the Republican Party declared in its platform that the "union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard." It's Senate election arm, the National Republicans Senatorial Committee, ran more than 420 ads on "Ellen."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, who's poised to become Senate majority leader, strongly criticized federal court rulings legalizing same-sex marriages. His re-election campaign aired more than 200 ads during the "Ellen" show.

Similarly, supporters of more traditional families are also big fans of "Modern Family" — a gay couple and their child are central characters — at least when political ads are concerned.

The campaigns of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts (Kansas) and McConnell, as well as those of Sens.-elect Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Joni Ernst (Iowa), are among those who bought dozens of ads during "Modern Family" airings.

The McConnell campaign's hostility toward Hollywood and its liberal denizens also didn't stop it from airing about 150 ads during "Access Hollywood," a nightly tabloid show.

And although Democrats routinely lambaste Fox News, accusing it of conservative bias, they're not above buying ads on the network, Kantar Media/CMAG data shows.

Take the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which during September and October blasted out fundraising appeals to supporters featuring subject lines such as "Fox News PANIC ATTACK," "Fox News EMBARRASSMENT" and "Fox News MELTDOWN."

The DSCC ran about 50 ads on "Fox News Sunday" alone.

Shows that attracted significantly more U.S. Senate-focused TV ads from Democratic candidates and their backers included "Judge Judy," "The Dr. Oz Show," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "The Queen Latifah Show," soap opera "General Hospital" and morning gabfest "The View."

Republican candidates and their supporters were much more likely than Democrats to buy ad time on "Wheel of Fortune," "Big Bang Theory," "Nightline," "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" and the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley."

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