WASHINGTON (AP) — Broadcast TV viewers in New Hampshire should recognize Hillary Clinton's stance on gun control by now. One of every four political ads she's aired in the state over the past month has been about tougher gun laws.
But in Iowa, only 1 in 17 of Clinton's spots has featured her stance on gun control. Television viewers in the rural southeast corner of the state haven't seen a single ad about guns from the Clinton campaign in the past month, according to an Associated Press analysis.
While the national Democratic front-runner has made gun control prominent in debates and interviews, she's only pressing the point on broadcast TV in New Hampshire. It's a disparity that reflects her strategy of trying to distinguish herself there from rival Bernie Sanders, who leads in polls in New Hampshire but not in Iowa, said Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.
The AP analyzed Clinton's television campaign ads using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of New York-based Kantar Media, which tracks political advertising. The data contain details on the content of ads aired on broadcast television and national cable television. Spots on local cable aren't included.
In Iowa, Clinton's gun-control ads have been outpaced by spots on health care, the economy, wages and student-loan debt. Over the past month, broadcast TV viewers in Iowa were 23 times more likely to see her ad on the wage gap than an ad featuring the Democratic front-runner expressing support for President Barack Obama's stance on gun control, according to the data. Gun-control spots made up less than 6 percent of the more-than-5,100 broadcast TV ads she's aired in Iowa over the past month.
"It may have to do with the polls and that the hunting tradition is stronger here in Iowa," Hagle said.
Hunting license data suggest a larger share of residents hunt with firearms in Iowa than in New Hampshire. At least 1 in 15 Iowans purchased gun-hunting licenses in 2014, compared to about 1 in 27 New Hampshire residents, according to data from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson declined to discuss campaign ad strategy but said Clinton has been vocal about her position on guns.
"Hillary Clinton is the only candidate committed to common-sense gun violence reform and she talks about it everywhere she goes," Ferguson said. "She has a record of taking on the gun lobby and an agenda including comprehensive background checks, cracking down on illegal gun traffickers, holding dealers and manufacturers accountable when they endanger Americans and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers."
Democratic primary voters in both New Hampshire and Iowa say they want to toughen gun laws, according to recent polling. NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls in each state found that 88 percent of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters and 82 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers support "making laws covering the sale of firearms more strict."
In New Hampshire, where Sanders leads in latest surveys, the Vermont senator hasn't aired a single ad about his stance on guns this past month. His ads have almost solely focused on economic and health care issues. He also just released a feel-good ad featuring the swelling music of Simon and Garfunkel's "America" playing over scenes of everyday life and crowds at his campaign stops.
But Clinton has aired more than 740 gun-control spots in the state, 24 percent of her more-than-3,000 ads between Dec. 18 and Jan. 18.
Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire and the author of "Stormy Weather: The New Hampshire Primary and Presidential Politics," said gun control is one of the few issues where Clinton is to Sanders' left.
Gun-control ads appeal to "professional, college-educated women who live in the wealthy suburbs of southern New Hampshire, who think about Newtown and who think about school safety," Scala said, referring to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
"She sees the chance to be the candidate of change on this one issue that really resonates in an era of mass shootings," he said.
In New Hampshire, Clinton is broadcasting an ad particularly targeted in the media markets of southern New Hampshire and suburban Boston where Scala said Clinton will need to motivate voters to win the primary.
"This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries," Clinton says, followed by a voiceover declaring that "Hillary Clinton has what it takes to stand up to the Republicans and the gun lobby."
The ad hasn't aired a single time in Iowa over the past month. Instead, Iowa television viewers have seen more of an ad called "Stand up," which includes only a mention of Clinton's stance on guns in a laundry list of other campaign talking points. On Wednesday, Clinton rolled out a similar ad that will run in Iowa called "This House," which has a mention of "taking on the gun lobby" along with several other campaign positions.
Clinton has aired one broadcast TV spot aimed solely at gun control in Iowa but only sparingly. The ad, called "I'm with him," features Clinton talking directly to the camera and telling voters she supports the Obama administration's push to expand background checks and allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for gun deaths.
AP News Survey Specialist Emily Swanson contributed to this report.
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