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Political advertising in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Nicknamed by politicians and the media as the “election of a lifetime”, the 2020 presidential election in the United States has been polarizing and dividing society in the U.S. as well as abroad. After four turbulent years of presidency by the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump, Democratic contender and former Vice-president Joe Biden hopes to win the election and was expected to win by a small margin prior to election night according to voters’ opinions. Since the presidential campaigns traditionally focus on high exposure and attention, a large share of the campaign spending was directed towards advertising. While the advertising spending over the years already saw an overall increase, the anticipated spending on political advertising in 2020of approximately six billion U.S. dollars had to be revised to an estimated 6.7 billion U.S. dollars. The most likely reason for that change is due to the increased advertising during the coronavirus pandemic and the declined exposure of voters to outdoor political ads and campaign events. In comparison, advertising spending during the last election cycle of 2015/2016 amounted to 4.22 billion U.S. dollars.

The unprecedented ban of political ads on Facebook until after the presidential election, that was implemented in October 2020, has shifted the focus more than ever towards the impact of political advertising on social media. The tone used by the presidential candidates on Facebook and Instagram was mostly civil, with Trump’s running mate Mike Pence spending over seven million U.S. dollars on ads that were civil in tone compared to 3.8 million U.S. dollars on uncivil ads. While Trump’s Facebook and Instagram ads targeted more of a male audience than female, his challenger Biden spent more advertising dollars on social media ads targeting female voters. But not only specific genders were targeted by the presidential campaigns, studies have also found that the social media ads of the two campaigns focused on varying age groups; however, both campaigns neglected the youngest group of 18 to 24 years.

Despite the presidential campaigns investing heavily into advertising on social networks, studies have shown that the consumer perspective on political social media ads is not entirely positive. For example, 56 percent of Democrats or Lean Democrats said that social media companies should not allow any political ads, compared to 50 percent of Republican voters who said the same. This sentiment was even stronger among the generation of 65-year-olds and older, among which two thirds stated that political ads should not be allowed on social media.

All in all, the 2020 election campaigns have highlighted the trend of political advertising shifting to the digital sphere. The outbreak of the coronavirus magnified that phenomenon. With the cancellation of campaign events and one of the TV debates, the candidates were left with a larger share of the budget at their disposal and devoted them to social media promotion. However, the focus on social media political campaigning is bound to fade as consumers and voters oppose to seeing these ads in their feeds and call for governments to regulate such activities.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Political advertising in the U.S." and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

Spending

Social media

TV advertising

Consumer perspective

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 29 most important statistics relating to "Political advertising in the U.S.".

Political advertising in the U.S.

Dossier on the topic

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Political advertising in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Nicknamed by politicians and the media as the “election of a lifetime”, the 2020 presidential election in the United States has been polarizing and dividing society in the U.S. as well as abroad. After four turbulent years of presidency by the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump, Democratic contender and former Vice-president Joe Biden hopes to win the election and was expected to win by a small margin prior to election night according to voters’ opinions. Since the presidential campaigns traditionally focus on high exposure and attention, a large share of the campaign spending was directed towards advertising. While the advertising spending over the years already saw an overall increase, the anticipated spending on political advertising in 2020of approximately six billion U.S. dollars had to be revised to an estimated 6.7 billion U.S. dollars. The most likely reason for that change is due to the increased advertising during the coronavirus pandemic and the declined exposure of voters to outdoor political ads and campaign events. In comparison, advertising spending during the last election cycle of 2015/2016 amounted to 4.22 billion U.S. dollars.

The unprecedented ban of political ads on Facebook until after the presidential election, that was implemented in October 2020, has shifted the focus more than ever towards the impact of political advertising on social media. The tone used by the presidential candidates on Facebook and Instagram was mostly civil, with Trump’s running mate Mike Pence spending over seven million U.S. dollars on ads that were civil in tone compared to 3.8 million U.S. dollars on uncivil ads. While Trump’s Facebook and Instagram ads targeted more of a male audience than female, his challenger Biden spent more advertising dollars on social media ads targeting female voters. But not only specific genders were targeted by the presidential campaigns, studies have also found that the social media ads of the two campaigns focused on varying age groups; however, both campaigns neglected the youngest group of 18 to 24 years.

Despite the presidential campaigns investing heavily into advertising on social networks, studies have shown that the consumer perspective on political social media ads is not entirely positive. For example, 56 percent of Democrats or Lean Democrats said that social media companies should not allow any political ads, compared to 50 percent of Republican voters who said the same. This sentiment was even stronger among the generation of 65-year-olds and older, among which two thirds stated that political ads should not be allowed on social media.

All in all, the 2020 election campaigns have highlighted the trend of political advertising shifting to the digital sphere. The outbreak of the coronavirus magnified that phenomenon. With the cancellation of campaign events and one of the TV debates, the candidates were left with a larger share of the budget at their disposal and devoted them to social media promotion. However, the focus on social media political campaigning is bound to fade as consumers and voters oppose to seeing these ads in their feeds and call for governments to regulate such activities.

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