The MAGA Social Media Queen of Arizona
Conservative internet star Kari Lake is on track to be Arizona’s next Governor. Can she be stopped?
Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary in Arizona will showcase the current state of the Republican party in all its chaotic Trumpian glory. 🤡 So much ink has been spilled already on the race between Trump-backed local news anchor Kari Lake and Pence-backed establishment favorite Karrin Taylor Robson, but we wanted to share some unique data and insights on what we’re seeing online.
Our biggest takeaway? Kari Lake has become an absolute force on social media, outpacing all other candidates on both sides of the aisle in terms of audience size and engagement. We’ll break that down + more in this week’s FWIW. But first…
By the numbers:
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook + Instagram last week:
Industry lobbying groups and social conservative organizations continue to lead Facebook and Instagram ad spending nationwide.
In the 30 days since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs overturning Roe v. Wade, conservative groups like SBA Pro-Life America and Focus on the Family have invested heavily to advertise on the platforms. The latter group has spent $508,071 in the past month, mostly on fundraising ads trying to capitalize on the pro-life movement’s momentum. Their ads target Facebook users interested in Chik-fil-a, parenting, and Chris Pratt. At the same time, SBA Pro-Life America has gone on offense in swing states, spending $230,605 in the past month on ads urging state-level action curtailing abortion access.
Another top political advertiser last week was Americans for Prosperity & AFP Action. The Koch-backed network is currently focused on attacking Democrats and boosting Republican candidates through the lens of one issue: inflation. They’ll probably support the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, right? RIGHT?
Meanwhile, here were the top political advertisers on Google platforms last week, including YouTube:
Google ad spending nationwide remained pretty static last week. However, a battle over abortion rights in Kansas has become an all-out digital ad war. Next Tuesday’s ballot initiative to roll back the constitutional right to abortion in Kansas is the first major electoral campaign on the issue since the fall of Roe v Wade. Here’s how both sides have been reaching voters online in the state >>
… and here are the top political ad spenders on Snapchat so far this year:
Looking for more detailed midterm candidate spending numbers? We provide weekly + historical data in battleground races for premium subscribers every week. Here are links to that content for Senate campaigns and Gubernatorial races.
From around the internet:
Mark Zuckerberg has entered full DGAF mode: According to Casey Newton in Platformer, Meta is “considering whether to relax some of the restrictions it has placed on COVID-related misinformation, including whether to continue removing posts about false claims about vaccines, masks, social distancing…” Read all about it here>>
If you keep spamming and scamming donors, maybe they’ll stop giving one day: The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher reported on a dramatic decrease in online contributions for Republican candidates and committees across the board.
For this week’s Campaigner newsletter, we spoke with Open Labs’ Ali Mortell, who helps Democrats and progressive organizations test the effectiveness of their messaging and political ads. Read + subscribe here>>
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? Here’s a roundup for premium FWIW subscribers >>
The MAGA Social Media Queen of Arizona
Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary in Arizona will showcase the current state of the Republican party in all its chaotic Trumpian glory. So much ink has been spilled already on the race between Trump-backed local news anchor Kari Lake and Pence-backed establishment favorite Karrin Taylor Robson, but we wanted to share some unique data and insights on what we’re seeing online.
First off, if you’re unfamiliar with Kari Lake, you should read this quick summary of her greatest hits. However, we’ve seen that despite her obvious lies and theatrics, Lake has absolutely dominated online political engagement in Arizona over the past several months.
Benefitting from years as a locally-famous news personality and tens of thousands of very-online supporters that she calls “Team #KARIZONA,” Lake has amassed the largest social media audience among the state’s candidates for Governor - and it's not even close.
On Facebook, Lake posts on average 7 times a day (that’s a lot) to share videos and photos from the campaign trail, assert that the 2020 election was stolen, and call out the “fake” news media.
As a result, she consistently receives 10x more reactions, shares, and comments on her public posts than any of her opponents:
…over on Instagram, it’s the same story: Lake far outpaces her opponents in terms of interactions on public feed posts.
These stellar levels of social engagement could represent real grassroots energy that could propel Lake to victory next Tuesday… or there could also be something shady going on. 👀
Regardless, Lake’s leading primary opponent, political newcomer Karrin Taylor Robson, has failed to build much of an audience online. Backed by the state’s current Governor and former VP Mike Pence, Robson is the establishment’s only hope to stop the Lake train from hijacking their party’s nomination, and her campaign in recent days has been on the attack:
If Robson is unsuccessful at stopping her on Tuesday, Lake has built an operation that can quickly pivot to run a strong, digital-first general election campaign. Democrats should be taking her seriously as the terrifying threat to democracy that she is, but instead, some recently tried to boost her candidacy by highlighting Robson’s previous donations to Democrats. 🤦
Speaking of Democrats…
Despite her brief period of national fame during the 2020 election, the presumptive Democratic nominee, AZ Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, does not have a significant audience or consistent engagement on social media.
In fact, Hobbs’ campaign did not even post on Facebook or Instagram for a 17-day period from June 24th to July 11th and didn’t post again during an 8-day period from July 11 to July 19th. That means there were no photos of her marching in Fourth of July parades, no statements or news shared about her increasingly crazy Republican rivals…nada. Her team finally posted a few times on the platform last week.
Will a couple of weeks off from posting on social media doom her campaign? Obviously not - but this digital absenteeism tells us a couple things: One, the campaign could currently lack the digital capacity to create and share content regularly. That’s a big problem, but one that is easily fixable. Two, Arizona grassroots Democrats are just not yet engaged in this race on social media - if they were, more of them would be eager to follow and interact with Hobbs online. Democrats have an opportunity to get their base voters enraged and engaged by Kari Lake’s (and Robson’s) extreme positions and Hobbs’ social media accounts should be leading that charge.
One bright spot for the Hobbs campaign is that although they haven’t invested much in organic social media engagement, they are running a pretty standard digital advertising operation - spending a moderate amount of cash on Facebook and Google ads to fundraise around key moments.
We don’t know if Kari Lake’s internet fame will translate into enough votes to win her party’s nomination on Tuesday, let alone the governor’s mansion, as she’s already alleging voter fraud.
However, from what we’ve seen time and time again, a serious campaign operation coupled with grassroots enthusiasm is often a recipe for success. For Arizona Democrats and Hobbs, entering a general election against an internet juggernaut like Kari Lake may not be the gift that they think it is - and they should start acting accordingly.