How far-right campaigns are building active communities on Facebook
Republican Governor hopefuls from Illinois to Arizona still can’t get enough of the social media site
With a few exceptions, Facebook’s feed continues to act as rocket fuel for right-wing political personalities to build a following and generate consistent engagement. In the midterms, that has played out most clearly among far-right gubernatorial candidates in several key states. We’ll break that down, as well as share some news on the political fundraising front and highlight a viral internet hoax that just won’t go away.
By the numbers
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook + Instagram last week:
Progressive climate group Action for the Climate Emergency has launched a full-court press to mobilize younger voters and get them out to vote in key states. The organization spent heavily on Instagram ads last week and has been the number-one spender nationwide for the past few days.
On the other side of the aisle, right-wing dark money group Citizens for Sanity has started blanketing swing-state voters’ Facebook feeds with video ads about crime and immigration, a tactic that seems to happen like clockwork at this point in every election cycle.
Meanwhile, here were the top political advertisers on Google platforms last week, including YouTube:
Major party-affiliated PACs and committees continue to dominate Google & YouTube spending in the campaign’s closing days. Senate Leadership Fund, Congressional Leadership Fund, Senate Majority PAC, the DCCC, and the DSCC have spent heavily on video ads attacking their opponents for the past few weeks. The groups continue to hammer four key lines of attack.
…and here are the top political ad spenders on Snapchat so far this year:
For premium subscribers, we provide detailed historical digital spending data in U.S. Senate, House, and Gubernatorial races.
From around the internet
Streaming giant Netflix is launching a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier next month, but has already decided to ban political ads on its platform. The move was immediately criticized by the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) and others.
Content that is shared organically on social media platforms like Facebook can have a much larger impact than paid advertising. Which midterm candidates are receiving the most reactions, comments, and shares on their campaign’s Facebook posts? Click through to find out >>
How can Democrats appeal to Republican voters without becoming ‘Republican Lite?’ Dan Pfeiffer has the answer in this excellent piece from his newsletter, Message Box.
Wednesday, far-right conspiracy theorist and internet mogul Alex Jones was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to victims of his dangerous hate speech. He immediately used the jury’s verdict to solicit even more donations from his loyal viewers.
Far-right Gov hopefuls build engaged communities on Facebook
Facebook’s feed continues to act as rocket-fuel for right-wing political personalities and posters to build a following and generate consistent engagement. In the midterms, that has played out most clearly among far-right governor candidates in several key states.
Here’s a snapshot of this phenomenon in several key races:
For example: despite Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker having twice as many followers on Facebook as his opponent, far-right State Senator Darren Bailey has seen more than twice as many likes, comments, and shares on his campaign’s posts this year. That’s an enormous disparity given Pritzker’s more mainstream appeal, digital-savvy campaign, and limitless budget (not to mention that he’s the incumbent). The same dynamic is playing out in Arizona, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, where fringe right-wingers are challenging more mainstream, well-funded Democrats.
While these campaigns seem to be struggling with some of the campaign basics (TV ads, organizing, turnout at events), they’ve found Facebook to be an effective place to engage with their community of supporters.
Many of these candidates’ posts predictably highlight crime in Democratic-run jurisdictions, inflation, and rail against the mainstream media.
The levels of consistent engagement on their posts illustrate a couple of things about the realities of right-wing campaigning in this digital environment: One, despite years of Republican calls for a mass exodus from Facebook towards sites like Gettr or Truth Social, grassroots conservatives remain very active on the platform. Second, there’s something about Facebook’s algorithm that continues to prioritize right-leaning content, outrage, and clickbait, notwithstanding the company’s best efforts to deprioritize political content in users’ feeds.
Campaigners often say that “engagement doesn’t equal persuasion” - and that could certainly be the case in some of these races. For instance, few political watchers consider Darren Bailey to have a chance of unseating Pritzker, despite his success in generating shares and likes from hardcore supporters on sites like Facebook.
Republicans’ email scam
Conservatives love nothing more than to claim they’re being unfairly targeted by “Big Tech,” despite their success at using many of “Big Tech”’s platforms (See above). The latest example: The Republican National Committee and Republicans in Congress have been complaining ad nauseum about their campaign emails being sent to supporters’ spam folders by Gmail, alleging political persecution and threatening to sue Google.
So, the company built a first-of-its-kind pilot program that would prevent a political senders’ emails from automatically being filtered into a spam folder. Google did this in spite of criticism from actual Gmail users who are exhausted by endless political fundraising missives.
Well…Makena Kelly at The Verge reported yesterday that the RNC hasn’t even applied to be a part of the pilot program.
Viral hoax resurfaces on the campaign trail
Earlier this year, we noticed a viral internet hoax was starting to bubble up to the surface in some right-wing online circles - mostly obscure pages and anti-mask Facebook groups. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the TL;DR: there’s basically a not insignificant amount of people who believe that America’s public schools are so far gone that they are allowing children to “identify” as cats and dogs and use litter boxes instead of bathrooms. To be clear, there never has been any evidence of this happening anywhere.
Last week, the Litter Box Hoax seemingly went to the next level with prominent Republican candidates for Congress and Governor repeating the lie on the stump.
One last thing…
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