Midterm Elections 2018 | The Politics Of Midterm Campaign Ads | Part 1

Posted on August 31, 2018 by Media Culture

The politics of midterm campaign ads part 1 is the first of a three part series that dives into the latest social media ad policy changes, the upcoming midterm elections, and how they may be influencing each other.

Facebook’s Shiny New Political Ad Database’s Latest Findings.

Facebook only began archiving political ads run on its platform in May, but the data has already revealed some interesting findings.

A group of researchers from New York University scraped the raw data contained in the advertising database and analyzed it to help them better understand how domestic political groups and figures used the platform.

The Big Spenders, President Trump, Planned Parenthood

It may come as no surprise that President Trump is the biggest spender on biggest spender on Facebook. Brad Parscale, the digital ad director for the 2016 Trump campaign wasted little time to take advantage of Facebook’s targeted political ad campaigns to reach voters in 2016. In an interview with CBS News Parscale explains, “I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won.”

Trump’s spending of approximately $273,000 far outpaced the second biggest spender, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Planned Parenthood spent around $188,000 on ads, though the group reports that some of that spending was on informational ads, not political ones.

Of the top 449 biggest spenders on political ads, 210 were left-wing groups, 124 were right-wing groups and 115 were “politically neutral,” according to the NYU research group. The figures are still being analyzed, but the researchers do plan to release final dollar figures in the future.

Political consultants have said that Democrats running in the midterm election are spending a much smaller percentage of their ad budgets on digital than Republicans, with some races seeing Dems utilize just 10 percent of their budgets against 40 percent in digital dedication from the GOP. As a result, Silicon Valley offered its services to Democrats to help bring them further into the digital age.

Even so, a second study identified the top 20 political candidates and PACs buying Facebook ads. Twelve of the 20 political entities were described as left-leaning or Democrats and only eight were Republicans. Instead of reflecting a technical deficiency, the small percentage of ad spend for Dems versus the GOP could indicate a better utilization of Facebook’s platform and targeting tools or even larger relative ad budgets.

Facebook’s Database Drops Some of the Balls

Although it is a great start to being able to catalog and track midterm political ads, Facebook’s work is far from complete.

The NYU researchers found that it worked well for identifying specific ads, but it was very difficult to see how a particular group or person was using advertising overall. Problems like multiple names for one entity (for example, the American Civil Liberties Union is also in the database as the A.C.L.U.) and ads that weren’t labeled with a sponsor, despite being political in nature, are still confusing the figures.

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