Most expensive US election ever? America still spends more on crisps

In comparison with the spending on the US election, India saw a record spending of $2bn (£1.2bn) on its last general election.

By Rachitaa Gupta

The estimated cost of this year’s American election is at least $5.8bn (£3.6m). The figure comes from research carried by the Centre for Responsive Politics, which is a non-partisan group that tracks money in politics.

According to this estimation, this year is all set to beat the 2008 elections, when the $5bn (£3.1m) mark was crossed for the first time.

“The big question now is whether we will reach – or surpass – $6 billion. At a minimum, we’ll come close,” says Sheila Krumhoiz, executive director of CRP, in OpenSecretsblog.

While the $5.8bn (£3.6m) this year accounts for the presidential race and also the elections to the House and Senate, the presidential elections of 2008 alone accounted for nearly $1.8bn (£1.1m).

“Maybe they need to spend that much in order to get elected, but it still sounds like an outrageous amount of money,” says Karishma Deshpande fro Arizona. She is one of the many 18-years-old voting for the first time this year.

So where is all this money going?

This year has seen the area of online campaigns growing rapidly, but it still accounts for only a moderate amount of total spending.

It is the TV campaigns that take the cake away, as both presidential candidates have spent a huge chunk of their campaign funds on TV ads.

“I’m exposed to them constantly. They are all over the place. My phone is off the hook as there are four voters registered as independents in my house,” says Mr Neeraj Deshpande, resident of Arizona State.

But the focal point for these ads has been the so-called “swing states,” which are the undecided states that ultimately decide the election results.

“Debates make the picture clear for me, regarding the policies of both candidates. Ads are all about mud-slinging and get annoying. They do not give any information,” says Monita Karmakar from Ohio, which is a swing state.

Analysts often criticise the American system for its emphasis on negative ad campaigning, but some believe this makes politics more interesting and engaging.

“It’s very healthy in terms of American politics. It’s a symptom of a very vigorous election season, there’s a lot at stake here,” says Michael Toner, a former head of the US Federal Election Commission.

In contrast, India, which is the biggest democracy in the world, saw a record spending of $2bn (£1.2m) on its last general election. In the UK, on the other hand, election spending reached £26.7m ($43m) in 2010.

Both figures are obviously much less than the spending in the US, but while $6bn (£3.7m) would be the most expensive election in the world ever, it is still not as much as the $7bn (£4.3m), which Americans spent on crisps last year.