2020-11-5

Candidates and groups drop over $12 million on Facebook ad spending

 

By Noah Fleischman, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- In an election forecasted to have record voter turnout, political campaigns have deployed a multiplatform media blitz. 

Facebook is for more than likes these days, with the platform getting its share of Virginia political and issue spending to the tune of over $12.7 million in a recent three-month period, according to the social media platform. 

Tobe Berkovitz, an advertising professor at Boston University who has worked as a political media consultant on election campaigns, said campaigns advertise on social media for the same reasons that consumer advertising is used. 

“It’s where a lot of either voters or consumers are getting their information,” Berkovitz said. “You can specifically develop messages for individuals and smaller groups and you can very tightly target who it is that you want to reach.”

Democratic groups or candidates dominated the top 10 when ranking the largest political Facebook ad spending in Virginia. Those organizations spent a combined amount over $2.4 million. That’s excluding the money Facebook and Instagram have put into political advertising.

Facebook tracks advertising spending on issues, elections and politics in its Ad Library. The data show that over a recent 90-day period, about 2,700 groups or candidates, including Facebook and Instagram, spent over $12.7 million on Facebook ads in Virginia. During a comparable period before the election last year, Facebook ad spending totaled $5.5 million, according to a previous Capital News Service report. 

The most spending from Aug. 2 to Oct. 30 went toward candidates at the top of the ballot. Over $2.2 million was spent by the two fundraising committees associated with President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Biden’s campaign fundraising arm The Biden Victory Fund invested more than Trump’s fundraising committee. The Biden Victory Fund spent more than $1.1 million between the pages of Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democratic Party. Over $1 million was spent on candidate Biden. 

Trump’s fundraising committee The Trump Make America Great Again Committee closely trailed the Biden camp. Trump’s campaign spent just shy of $1.1 million over eight Facebook pages, including the pages of Black Voices for Trump, Mike Pence and Women for Trump. Over $750,000 of that total went to Trump’s re-election campaign. 

Berkovitz said social media advertising is becoming more popular because of the analytics that are available to the campaigns.

“It provides a lot of information about the people you’re trying to reach, the people you do reach, how your message is working, what types of messages do work for them and you just have a lot more data to go on,” Berkovitz said. “We’re in a world where everything is data driven now.”

Over $1.2 million was spent on contested Virginia Congressional races and a South Carolina Senate race. Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District U.S. House race, Elaine Luria’s campaign spent more than $207,000. That lands her in the No. 4 spot. Her opponent Scott Taylor’s fundraising committee spent just shy of $62,000. Taylor previously held the seat and the election is a rematch between the two candidates. 

The 7th District U.S. House race accounts for more than $15.5 million spent on all media advertising during the election season, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic incumbent, spent almost $193,000 on Facebook advertising in the last 90 days. Nick Freitas, Spanberger’s Republican opponent, spent just shy of $24,000 in the same time span. Most of the money for this closely watched race has been spent on broadcast and cable TV advertising. 

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s fundraising committee spent over $186,000 in the effort to keep his 1st District U.S. Senate seat. Daniel Gade, his Republican challenger, spent significantly less through his campaign arm, investing just under $42,000. 

A South Carolina Senate race between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison landed in the No. 8 and No. 9 slots, spending a combined amount of over $310,000. Jaime Harrison for U.S. Senate spent over $156,000. Team Graham Inc. spent just shy of $154,000. 

Advocacy groups turn to the platform for the same reason as politicians. Stop Republicans, a self-described accountability campaign of the Progressive Turnout Project, made the No. 3 spot with just under $230,000 spent targeting Virginians through Facebook. The Progressive Turnout Project ranks No. 7 with $164,000 spent during the last 90 days.

The Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education rounded out the top 10, spending just over $151,000. SEIU is a labor union representing workers in the healthcare industry, public sector and property services. The organization spent millions nationwide this election cycle to get out the vote, target infrequent voters and promote progressive candidates. 

The political advertising total in Virginia is lower compared to Florida, where almost $85 million was spent in the same 90-day period. In swing state Pennsylvania just over $57 million was spent. Over $45.2 million was spent in targeted Facebook advertising in neighboring North Carolina. 

Facebook isn’t oblivious to the influence its platform has. The company recently imposed a ban on new political ads from being placed leading up to Election Day. 

Judi Crenshaw, who teaches public relations at Virginia Commonwealth University, said Facebook’s ban was “an effort to put the brakes on this influence and this disinformation leading up to the election.”

“I don’t know what else to call it except for an attempt,” Crenshaw said. “It’s a last minute attempt and it certainly is a very limited attempt when ads that were placed before this period of time are still allowed to run.”

Statement from Fair Districts on Amendment 1 Vote Results

While votes in the Commonwealth will continue to be counted over the next few days, it is apparent that Amendment 1 has passed. While this is not the result we hoped for, we want to thank all the volunteers who worked so hard and put in so many hours. Our campaign was truly a grassroots campaign that was outspent over 50 to 1 by out-of-state dark money groups and was fighting an uphill battle against biased language on the ballot meant to gain votes for the measure.

The people who pushed Amendment 1 know of its flaws – and it is now incumbent upon them to seek real solutions to fix those flaws, not just lip-service efforts like “consideration” of Virginia’s diversity. They have won the day – and it is now up to them to fulfill the promise of Virginia’s future by immediately pushing not just for enabling legislation to attempt to make this amendment palatable, but for a new amendment that actually does the things Virginians voted for, but will not get from this amendment:

1)     Get politicians out of the redistricting process.
2)     Establish an independent commission for redistricting.
3)     Respect Virginia’s diversity by requiring the inclusion of minority communities.

We will continue fighting for these ideals, and we hope they will join us in achieving these goals moving forward.

Virginia sees smooth election day thanks to efforts by AG Herring

Virginia saw a remarkably smooth and uneventful Election Day yesterday, after there was an anticipation that we could have seen some disruptions. I think an important reason why we saw such a quiet day was because of all the work that Attorney General Herring and his team did in preparation for Election Day, including making it clear that absolutely no voter intimidation would be tolerated in Virginia and preparing and planning for any and all outcomes or potential legal challenges.

Virginia saw historic turnout during this election, especially in early and absentee voting. This increase in voter participation was really possible in part because of Attorney General Herring's work to make voting as easy and safe as possible during this unprecedented election cycle by crafting agreements to waive the witness signature on absentee ballots, making it easier for disabled Virginians to vote safely at home, extending the voter registration deadline, and blocking the drastic operational changes at the USPS.

Attorney General Herring and his team expertly handled the influx of votes and every other curve ball or challenge that this election cycle threw at them. Attorney General Herring remains committed to ensuring that every single vote is counted as required by law and he recognizes that this election is not over just yet.

In addition to the OAG attorneys who normally represent the Board of Elections and the Department of Elections, he has assembled a multidisciplinary team of attorneys from his Civil Litigation and Public Safety Divisions, Solicitor General’s Office, and other divisions across the OAG, who will be on standby, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice should the need arise. Additionally, the OAG has lawyers in every corner of the state who are prepared to go into court to handle any potential legal challenges.

This election cycle has brought numerous challenges that have prompted Attorney General Herring and his team to develop solutions and put out guidance to make sure every Virginian has a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience, whether they chose to vote early absentee, early in person, or on Election Day tomorrow.

Attorney General Herring and his team negotiated options to promote safe, secure voting for Virginians who could not or did not want to risk their health to vote in person including:

  • An agreement that waived the witness requirement for absentee ballots for Virginians who feared for their safety voting in person
  • An agreement that made it easier for Virginians with disabilities to participate in the election safely at home

Attorney General Herring also successfully blocked the Trump Administration's drastic operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service, when a federal judge granted his motion for preliminary injunction, explicitly saying in his order that, “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”

Additionally, Attorney General Herring has put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that Virginians feel comfortable and protected at polling places across the Commonwealth by:

Attorney General Herring remained committed to ensuring that every Virginian had a safe, comfortable, easy voting experience during this year’s election, whether they choose to vote early absentee, early in person, or in person on Election Day.

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