Pathmatics Blog

The Digital B(Ad)leground States - Mapping Political Social Spend

October 30 2020 by Matthew Bozin

The Social Dilemma

One of the most consequential elections in modern history, both the Presidential race and several Senate races could determine the course of the country for a generation. Moreover, the battle for votes has become a measurement of digital ad dollars. That makes Facebook, with over 190 million users, and Instagram, with 126 million users, prime territory for political ads.

Biden v. Trump

Targeting voters has become a numbers game, and where you spend is just as important as how much. 

Since October 1st, the Biden campaign has spent over $9.7 MM on Facebook ads, with over 40% alone going to 3 battleground states - Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Similarly, the Trump campaign has invested $13 MM in the social channel. At first glance, the geography breakdowns are nearly identical, but diving deeper we find that after Florida and Pennsylvania, Trump has focused more in Georgia and North Carolina, while Biden has invested a significant amount in Michigan and Arizona.

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In contrast, the Biden campaign invested $1.2 million in Instagram, where over 53% of users are between the ages of 18-34 - a coveted younger voting demographic, while the Trump campaign has only allotted $312k in the channel. But the differences continue into the geography breakdown as Biden spent 26% in Pennsylvania while Trump invested 28% of their budget in Florida, focused in 4 separate cities. 

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Senate Challengers

Several closely watched Senate races are also waging their own social spend wars, reaching outside their state to donors in politically-friendly neighbors. Two in particular - South Carolina and Arizona - could turn the Senate towards a Democratic majority, as both challengers are in a dead heat with their republican incumbents. 

Jaime Harrison, challenger to Lindsey Graham, has raised the most money in South Carolina history for any state race - utilizing Facebook to the tune of $5.3MM YTD, 57% of the campaign's spend. More surprisingly, Harrison's campaign has actually spent more in California than in his own state, as well as reaching across the country for donations.

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In Arizona, Democratic challenger Mark Kelly and incumbent Martha McSally have both been reaching outside of their state, spending $1.8 MM and $517k respectively, YTD, on Facebook. But while Kelly has focused 70% in his home state and California, McSally has spread her smaller budget across several states including significant spend in California, Illinois, Virginia and Washington.

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Money v. Votes

With a country and democratic system that celebrates one vote per person, but a Presidential election that relies on the electoral college, the map of social spend is a stark reminder that ad dollars might weigh some votes heavier than others.  Similarly, even with Senate races that elect according to the popular vote, ad dollars spent outside their boarders could easily tip the scales. 

One thing we do know - ad spend is the new battleground, and Pathmatics will be on the front lines with the most up to date insights.  

About Author
Matthew Bozin

After earning his BS in Communications, Matt cut his teeth in the entertainment industry, spending fifteen years writing everything from feature screenplays for A-List directors, to celebrity bios for some of Hollywood’s top actors. That creative drive made it an easy transition to Marketing, bringing his eye for storytelling to the digital advertising ecosystem.

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