Where are the alarm bells?
As SCOTUS considers gutting a constitutional right, online conversation about abortion is subdued
Many of us listened in horror on Wednesday as Donald Trump’s Supreme Court openly deliberated reversing Roe v. Wade. That horror, however, did not translate into significant engagement on top pro-abortion posts online. As conservative media personalities and organizations shared a barrage of anti-abortion posts, content from liberal groups and supporters of abortion rights generally struggled to take off. We’ll look at the data in this week’s issue of FWIW.
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By the numbers:
Here were the top political ad spenders on Meta platforms last week, including Facebook and Instagram:
Facebook feeds were flooded last week by big-spending conservative groups, including right-wing media sites.
🚨 Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign-in-waiting, Save America, was a top 10 spender nationwide last week on both Google and Facebook ads. The group has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook and Google fundraising ads since March - more than many marquee 2022 campaigns. Their ad creative is predictably outrageous, and Facebook’s policy team continues to allow ads claiming that Trump is the “true president” and the 2020 election was “tainted.”
The biggest Facebook spender on the Left last week was the League of Conservation Voters, which is running a wave of ads thanking (or attacking) vulnerable members of the House of Representatives for their votes on the Build Back Better Act.
Meanwhile, on Google platforms, spending overall has decreased week over week. Here were the top 10 spenders on Google / YouTube ads last week:
While Republican big spenders (like Trump and the NRSC) continue to leverage these platforms for fundraising ads, we should point out that the majority of Democratic spending on Google is promoting actual content meant to persuade voters or promote their policy agenda.
The Economic Security Project, Advancing AZ, Priorities USA, House Majority Forward, and North Fund all ran ads last week targeting 2022 House and Senate battlegrounds in hopes of selling the Biden administration’s message.
And lastly, we’ve seen campaigns spend over $4.6 million on Snapchat advertising this year. That’s way down from the over $21.2 million spent in 2020, but a slight increase over 2019 off-year spending ($4.2 million) on that platform. Here are the top 10 political ad spenders on Snapchat year to date:
“Trump’s social media site” raises big money for the GOP
Our team has scrolled through thousands of digital ads this year, and we’ve noticed one very odd theme emerge time and time again in ad creative for Republican candidates and committees. Donald Trump’s “social media platform,” which may or may not be an actual thing coming soon or ever, has been a feature of thousands of Republican fundraising ads all year long. Read more + see the ads»
Where are the alarm bells?
Despite the Supreme Court’s blatant willingness to gut a decades-old constitutional right, abortion rights mostly failed to become a rallying cry for the left online this week. On Facebook and Instagram in particular, the top public posts about the issue have earned limited engagement (comments, shares, reactions) across the board relative to other political issues.
We know from reading CAP Action’s newsletter, What’s Trending, that the average top-performing political posts on Facebook earn around 200,000-500,000 interactions per week. On abortion rights, no single post on that platform received more than 100,000 comments/shares/reactions - although there was a spike in quantity of posts on Wednesday.
Seven of the top ten performing posts came from anti-choice actors. Two of those came from evangelical political personality Franklin Graham, who was eager to rally his followers in support of overturning Roe v. Wade:
On Instagram, the balance between pro-choice and anti-choice posts was more even - although again, engagement was down across the board relative other political issues:
Three of the top 10 political posts about abortion on Instagram this week came from an anti-choice group called Live Action. That organization calls itself “the largest online presence in the pro-life movement,” and is explicitly focused on pushing anti-choice content on social media. They’re even on TikTok, where they boast over 480,000 followers. They also repeatedly spread misinformation about basic biology, leading them to be deplatformed from Pinterest several years ago.
To build momentum, Live Action also launched a six-figure ad campaign on Meta platforms around the SCOTUS case this week. We won’t dignify it by sharing their ad creative (which features loads of misleading information), but you can dig around for yourself here.
Finally (and predictably), pro-choice forces did dominate the conversation on one social media platform this week: Twitter. Here’s a breakdown of who was behind the most engaged tweets:
The top tweet related to abortion rights and SCOTUS this week came from @AOC, who used the opportunity to slam Justice Kavanaugh and point out the lack of legitimacy of Trump’s Supreme Court.
It’s the end of a long, difficult year, and folks are generally tired and disengaged. Maybe that’s one reason why Wednesday’s events failed to really go viral online. We also recognize that oral arguments at SCOTUS are “inside baseball,” and people will likely pay much more attention to the issue in the lead-up to a decision next spring. But in a country where an overwhelming majority support legal abortion, the high court’s open debate over curtailing this constitutional right should shock us all into action. You can donate to Planned Parenthood here, NARAL Pro-Choice America here, or the Center for Reproductive Rights here.