Context: Media messaging matters for public opinion and policy, and analyzing patterns of campaign strategy can provide important windows into policy priorities.

Methods: We used content analysis supplemented with keyword-based text analysis to assess the volume, proportion and distribution of attention to race-related issues in comparison to gender-related issues during the general election period of the 2022 midterm campaigns for federal office.

Findings: Race-related mentions were overwhelmingly focused on crime and law and order with very little attention to racism, racial injustice, and the structural barriers that lead to widespread inequities. In stark contrast to mentions of gender, racial appeals were less identity focused and were competitively contested between the parties in their messaging, but much more likely to be led by Republicans.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that discussion of race and gender were highly polarized with consequences for public understanding of and belief in disparities and policies important to population health.

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Supplementary data