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Deception in Third Party Advertising in the 2012 Presidential Campaign



In this article, we profile the advertising activities and deception levels of the top 2012 spending independent expenditure groups that focused on the presidential contest. From December 1, 2011, through Election Day, November 6, 2012, independent expenditure groups spent more than $360 million on presidential television advertising, according to Kantar Media CMAG. More than a fifth of the dollars spent by the top groups purchased ads containing at least one claim judged as misleading by independent fact checkers. The proportion of dollars that these groups spent on ads containing at least one deception was much greater during the primaries than afterward. During the primaries, the pro-Romney super PAC “Restore Our Future” led the pack both in dollars spent on ads containing at least one deception and in the proportion of its ads found deceptive by the fact checkers. During the general election, in the post-primary period, the pro-Obama super PAC “Priorities USA Action” devoted the most dollars and greatest proportion of its total dollars to ads in which fact checkers found at least one deceptive claim. During some but not all of the 2012 election year, the percentage of third party ads containing at least one deceptive claim was higher among those groups not required to disclose their donors than it was among those required to do so.