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Trump Outspent Every Other Political Campaign on Facebook. Here’s Who Those Ads Targeted

People may still be debating the specifics of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election, but one thing is for sure: political advertising on Facebook was one of the key tools Russian entities utilized in efforts to influence the election.

Those efforts resulted in an important change to Facebook’s policy—it now publicizes political advertising data, meaning any person can see who is spending how much on what.

According to a new analysis of this data by Comparitech, paid advertising on Facebook for social causes, elections, and politics totaled $616 million between March 2018 and May 2019.

The biggest spender is this period? None other than President Donald Trump. Despite officially launching his re-election campaign in June of this year, Trump had already spent $12.5 million on paid advertising over the course of the previous year. 

Trump outspent all candidates—regardless of affiliation—and every other cause. But his campaign hasn’t wasted time targeting ads at individuals living in liberal strongholds or other demographics unlikely to vote for Trump. Instead, he focused the majority of his effort on the 25-54 age demographic, for example, rather than those under 25. 

Overall, the majority of Trump’s ad spending has targeted middle-aged men. He also targeted voters in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and Louisiana, but the biggest geographic concentration of his spending was in Florida—the same state where he launched his re-election campaign. 

This major spend resulted in a total of 219,000 ads over the period—about 80,000 more unique ads than the other top 25 advertisers combined. Comparitech notes that these ads led to between 895 million and 2.8 billion impressions, which, if they were distributed evenly rather than targeted to the demographics already mentioned, would mean every American would have seen between four and 12 paid ads by Trump.

Yet while Trump may have been the largest individual spender, the greatest bulk of political advertising money was spent on liberal causes.

According to Comparitech’s count, liberal political advertisers spent a total $66.5 million, compared to $33.1 million by conservatives. Much of the spending by liberals was by organizations rather than individuals; however, several Democratic political candidates spent considerably on Facebook, as well. Beto O’Rourke spent the most with $8.1 million, while Tom Steyer’s Trump impeachment campaign was not far behind as liberal campaigns go. 

Facebook itself also invested heavily in political ads on its own platform—it was second only to Trump in this period, with close to $11 million. Much of these ads were focused on a get out the vote campaign, as well as ads related to their “election integrity efforts.”

Other major spenders included ExxonMobil, Concealed Online, a “company offering online safety training courses for concealed carry permits,” online petition network Care2, and the International Rescue Committee.