Issue Ownership in Congressional Campaign Television Spots

LeAnn M. Brazeal
William L. Benoit


This study investigated issue ownership patterns in 602 U.S. House and Senate Democratic and Republican political campaign television advertisements from 1980–2000. First, the themes in these ads were about equally split between policy and character (unlike presidential TV spots from the same time period, which are roughly two-thirds policy and one-third character). Candidates from each political party addressed their own party's issues more than issues owned by the other party. However, unlike presidential spots, congressional ads discussed Democratic issues more than Republican issues (59% to 41%). Although candidates from both political parties discussed their own issues more, winners tended to discuss issues from the other party more than losers. There was no difference in issue ownership emphasis between the House and Senate ads in this sample.