- Candidates running for president in 2020 are spending big money on Facebook advertising.
- Facebook has experienced several scandals in the past few years over privacy rights and being manipulated by foreign governments.
- The biggest Facebook spender so far is the 2020 reelection campaign of President Donald Trump, but other Democrats are doling out large sums of money as well.
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Facebook took a massive public relations hit in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. Privacy scandals and being used as a tool for Russian propaganda severely damaged the tech giant’s standing in Washington.
But as the 2020 presidential election gets underway, Democratic presidential candidates – as well as President Donald Trump – are shelling out big sums of money to advertise on Facebook and capitalize on their audience for the upcoming campaign cycle.
Already, the Trump 2020 reelection campaign is going all-in on Facebook, spending more than $4 million since the start of 2019. Since May 2018, the Trump campaign has spent nearly $12 million on Facebook advertising.
It is part of a broader strategy heading into the 2020 election. While Facebook has experienced bad and embarrassing scandals, many Americans are still very active on the site, creating a massive trove of voters which the campaigns hope to influence.
And the Trump campaign has a significant war chest heading into 2020. According to the campaign’s most recent fundraising haul in the first quarter of 2019, and combined with the efforts of the Republican National Committee and joint fundraising committees, a whopping $82 million in cash has been raised to reelect the president.
“The RNC is already investing these donations into our expansive, permanent, data-driven field program to put President Trump and Republicans in prime-position for another historic election night in 2020,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an April 15 statement.
Facebook users who are older, ages 45-54, spend more time on the site of any other age demographic. That could prove to be a valuable resource for Republicans, who typically lean towards older generations for support compared to younger millennials and teenagers.
Democrats are spending big on Facebook and Instagram too
On the Democratic side of the 2020 race, spending on Facebook advertising is pretty evenly-divided and far less than the big money being spent by the Trump campaign.
The 2020 field is very large, with 21 candidates having announced campaigns for the Democratic nomination. The huge number of candidates can make money and resources are scarce, which is why many are looking to Facebook and Instagram to boost name recognition and overall appeal.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris have each spent more than $1 million since the start of January, with candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke not far behind.
One Democratic candidate who has spent big since launching his 2020 campaign is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has dedicated more than $400,ooo since launching his campaign at the end of April. Biden is also spending large sums on Google advertising, though slightly less than his Facebook buys at just over $300,000, according to a campaign ad spending tracker by Bully Pulpit Interactive.
Andrew Yang, the upstart candidate without any prior political experience, is spending quite a bit on Facebook advertising as well, while largely avoiding Google advertising. In 2019, Yang has spent more than $700,000 on Facebook ads, but just $43,500 on Google ads.
The big spending on Facebook comes at an odd time for the platform, which has faced scrutiny from Congress and other governments.
And Facebook was a mainstay at many of the presidential primary debates for both parties in 2016, playing key partnership roles. But so far, Facebook is not involved in any of the 12 debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.
And the Republican Party is not likely to hold any primary debates with Trump as the incumbent. While Trump has a primary challenger in former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the RNC is sticking by the president’s side and deciding to not remain neutral.