Illuminating 2020 Report: The 2020 General Election Campaign Advertising on Facebook

Illuminating 2020 Report: The 2020 General Election Campaign Advertising on Facebook

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump spent a historic $217 million advertising on the Facebook and Instagram social media platforms during the 2020 general election. This report provides analyses by the Illuminating 2020 project for how both campaigns used Facebook and Instagram advertising in the general election campaign, including targeting and messaging.

To Swing or Not to Swing: How Facebook Ads Were Used to Reach Ohio Voters

Photo of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati.

Ohio has been considered one of the most significant swing states for decades, but for the first time since 1960 the winner did not win the state of Ohio. In this post, we take a look at how the candidates used Facebook and Instagram ads to appeal to voters in Ohio.

Noteworthy News in Nevada: A Retrospective on 2020 Presidential Election Campaign Ads in the Silver State

A light fixture in the shape of the state of Nevada with "LET'S VOTE" inside the state.

As a swing state with 6 electoral votes, Nevada was integral on the path to winning the 2020 election. Here we take a deep dive into how the official Biden and Trump campaign pages targeted voters within the Silver State.

How Trump Used Facebook Ads in Arizona

Finger holding a "I VOTED" sticker

Prior to the election, many analysts predicted that Arizona would be a tight race and a key battleground state for both campaign’s path to victory. Donald Trump ran ads in Arizona from several different Facebook pages. Using data collected by Illuminating, trends about the demographics Trump targeted can be examined, comparing state-specific strategy to what Trump did overall.

Trump’s Ad Spending Breakdown in the “Latinos for Trump” Facebook Page

Gathering of Trump supporters. One supporter is holding a flag with Trump's image on it.

With the election finally decided, it is clear that the 2020 election was far from predictable. Several key voting demographics defied polling and created an unexpected outcome. In this article, we take a look at the “Latinos for Trump” Facebook page and how ads were used to influence this key demographic of voters.

Trump and Biden ads on Facebook and Instagram focus on rallying the base

Trump and Biden ads on Facebook and Instagram focus on rallying the base

The campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden together spent US $65.8 million on social media advertising between June 1 and Sept. 13. With these ads, which amount to about 30% of both campaigns’ spending, the candidates are trying to mobilize voters – find supporters and then spark them to get involved.

The Year of the Youth Vote: How Candidates are Targeting 18 to 24 Year-Olds Through Advertising

Young adult holding a "SAVE OUR FUTURE" sign. Other people appear behind the young adult, one of whom is also holding a sign with a picture of the globe.

Historically, youth voters (ages 18-29) have had the lowest voter turnout when participating in national and local elections. With 23 million eligible Gen Z voters this year, almost 16 million more than could vote in the 2016 election, this large but historically inactive voting demographic is a challenging yet necessary group of voters that presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump have targeted using Facebook and Instagram advertisements. Using the Illuminating Data, we are able to break down how each candidate is tackling the younger portion of this demographic (ages 18 to 24). Both candidates have different strategies on how to reach young adults, but employ these strategies in a way that targets social issues young Americans care about in attempts to mobilize this age group.   

Trump’s slow summer climb in the Florida polls

President Trump staring at the camera with an American flag in the background.

Biden has maintained a fairly consistent national polling lead of around 7 to 8% since mid June, but Trump’s standing in the race has tightened in certain key battleground states. For example, Biden had a polling lead of approximately 7% in Florida mid June, but his lead has dropped to 1.8% as of September 29. Has the Trump campaign changed its advertising strategies between mid June and September? By looking at the Illuminating 2020 data, we see that there is a re-balancing of ad strategy taking place, as both campaigns are trying their best to find their “sweet spot” of message type targeting potential voters in important battleground states.