Deep Dive into Trump’s Demographic-Specific Facebook Pages

Crowd of people dressed in winter clothes with US-themed colors. A person with a "Korea Veteran" hat appears in the center of the photo.

To run ads on Facebook, advertisers must connect their ads to a particular Facebook page that they administer. However, Facebook does not limit advertisers to running ads from a single Facebook page. For example, the Trump campaign has been running ads from over 20 different Facebook pages so far this year. Several of these pages are targeted at specific demographics. This is a deep dive of the month-by-month breakdown of how Donald Trump has utilized demographic-specific Facebook pages to run ads.

Facebook Political Advertising Transparency Report

Facebook Political Advertising Transparency Report

This report summarizes the challenges and concerns that the Illuminating project’s team encountered when using Facebook’s Ad Library to conduct research on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. We provide examples of each problem and explain why hindering the transparency of the online campaigning ecosystem poses a threat to campaign advertising research by academics and journalists. Our report concludes with recommendations that would help make Facebook’s Ad Library more accessible and transparent to journalists, researchers, and the general public.

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.

Why you’re getting so many political text messages right now

People holding smartphones in their hands. The focus of the image is on the hands holding the smartphones. Only one person's face appears and it is blurred.

Text messages and emails from political campaigns are pouring into Americans’ phones and inboxes right now. This is because campaign operatives believe that the more messages they send, the greater the odds that you will act. Each time you act, the campaign gets insight on what types of messages seem to work with you. They’ll learn from your responses, and send you more messages, in the hopes you’ll stay involved and that they can eventually secure your vote.

An Introduction to the Illuminating Project

Screenshot of the Illuminating 2020 Dashboard.

Illuminating is a computational journalism project that empowers journalists covering US political campaigns. The Illuminating data helps journalists see patterns and changes in how candidates address communicate to voters over time. If candidates are spending millions of dollars to micro-target voters on digital media, then someone needs to improve transparency and hold them accountable, explains Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Principal Investigator of the project.