Elena Scotti

You're channel-surfing and you catch yet another political ad. Ever wonder who the candidates are hoping to reach when they buy that airtime? Is it you?

We worked with the good folks at the Internet Archive, which has been capturing ads aired by candidates in major television markets, and with Nielsen, which tracks ratings and demographics, to help answer that question.


Below is each candidate's favorite national show to advertise on, plus the makeup of that show's audience.

Hillary Clinton

Favorite show: "The Ellen Degeneres Show"
Least favorite show: "CBS This Morning"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_HillaryClinton_b665s

Bernie Sanders

Kate Stohr

Favorite show: "Jimmy Kimmel Live"
Least favorite show: "Wheel of Fortune"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_BernieSanders_a80h0

Marco Rubio

Favorite show:"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"
Least favorite show: "Judge Judy"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_MarcoRubio_s8ty9

Donald Trump

Favorite show:"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"
Least favorite show: "Jeopardy"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_DonaldTrump_bh0ap

John Kasich

Kate Stohr

Favorite show: "Jimmy Kimmel Live"
Least favorite show: "Family Feud"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_JohnKasich_ej93x

Ted Cruz

Favorite show: "Jeopardy"
Least favorite show: "Family Feud"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_TedCruz_jt0h4

Ben Carson

Favorite show: "Dr. Phil"
Least favorite show: "Judge Judy"
Most frequently run ad: https://archive.org/embed/PolAd_BenCarson_0sg2c


Tracking every airing of every political ad in every market would be a tremendous undertaking. The Internet Archive's Political TV Ad Archive aims to give political junkies insight into campaign advertising by monitoring 20 important markets.

Those include markets that reach viewers in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, plus major cities like New York and Miami. For each airing of an ad, the project records the station, the program, and other details.

The presidential candidates in this election year—the seven still in the race plus those who have dropped out—have aired 403 ads a total of more than 102,000 times in those 20 markets. The show that got the most political ad buys:"Today." Every candidate has advertised during NBC's morning show. Other popular shows include "Live with Kelly and Michael," "Judge Judy," and "The Big Bang Theory."

All these shows air nationwide but allow for what are called spot buys—commercial slots that are sold by the networks to local affiliates, which then sell them to advertisers. This allows campaigns to target local markets while reaching the biggest audience that matches their desired demographics. Most of these shows are also cost-effective because they don't air during expensive prime-time hours.

Since most candidates have been buying ads during the same shows, we focused on the shows with 1,000 or more political ad airings to determine each candidate's "favorite."

Next we asked to Nielsen to provide audience demographics for each candidate's favorite show. These audience demographics reflect the show's aggregated national audience and likely vary by market, but they give some insight into whom the candidates are targeting.


One last note: We only included ads sponsored by the candidates' campaign committees, not ads sponsored by super-PACs. Rest assured, we'll be talking about super-PAC ads here at Fusion in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.

Data source:
All campaign TV ad data is as of Feb. 24 source Political TV Ad Project.  For more information on how the Political TV Ad Project monitors and captures ads, visit the project's site.

Ratings and demographic information is provided by Nielsen. Demographic data is as of Feb. 29 and reflects ratings and viewership of each show season to date. Viewership includes viewers tuning in live or within seven days utilizing timeshifting (DVR, VOD). For more information on Nielsen television ratings and viewer demographics, visit its site.


Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly used demographic information for "Ellen" under the logo for "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Daniel McLaughlin is a creative technologist exploring the 2016 presidential election. Before joining Fusion, Daniel worked at the Boston Globe and graduated from MIT with a BS in urban studies and planning.

Kate Stohr is a data journalist and community builder based in San Francisco, CA.