US Presidential Campaign

How the US presidential candidates use Facebook to target specific user groups

Last updated: March 1, 2020

US Presidential Campaign


Topic Analysis

This chart shows the spend of each candidate on particular high profile topics. We look for key terms in each ad that indicates if the content is relating to each of the eight topics of interest. One ad may relate to multiple topics, in which case we assign its budget equally across the topics.

Some candidates are pushing a very strong message in particular areas - for example, Yang on the economy, Sanders on healthcare and climate change, and Trump on immigration. Other candidates such as Buttigieg have spread budget across a wide range of issues.

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Spend Over Time

Let’s now take a look at the total spend of each Democrat candidate (with >$1m spend) and the current president, from May 2018.

Since May 2018, Trump, Steyer and Bloomberg have spent considerably more on Facebook advertising than the other candidates.
Bloomberg has spent considerably since November 2019, even more than Trump.

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Spend by Gender

Now let's see how each candidate chooses to split their funds between men and women.

The majority of candidates are leaning towards targeting a female audience, in particular, Castro and Williamson.

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Spend By Age

We can take a closer look at how the candidates target different age groups, too.

Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar target the oldest demographics, with the majority of their spend going towards those over 55.
On the other side, a larger proportion of Andrew Yang's spend goes to under 25 year-olds - at least double any other candidate.

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Gender vs Age

We can combine the two demographic splits to view a scatter chart of gender against age.

The uniqueness of Andrew Yang's audience is demonstrated in this chart, covering a very young and mostly male demographic.
In fact, only Donald Trump and Andrew Yang skew towards a male audience, while most Democrat candidates target an older, female audience.

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Spend By Size Of Ad

We can also see the average amount each candidate spends per ad in the chart below.

A variety of strategies are employed. Tom Steyer has launched smaller numbers of high budget ad campaigns, with the vast majority of his sponsored posts costing more than $1000. On the other hand, most of Kamala Harris' ads have cost less than $100, perhaps indicating a greater amount of testing on the platform to identify ad creative and messaging that resonates with voters.

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Highest Spender By State

Finally, this chart explores the highest spender for each month, by state.

Tom Steyer launched a large campaign in August 2019, becoming the top spender for every single state in that month.
Typically, Trump has the highest spend in the southern and rural states while the historically blue states have one of the leading Democrats investing heaviest.

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If you're interested in receiving further analysis (e.g. topic modelling of ad content over time) , please do get in touch through our contact form.