IF ABORTION IS SUCH A WINNING ISSUE FOR REPUBLICANS, WHY AREN’T THEY PUTTING SIGNIFICANT DIGITAL AD DOLLARS BEHIND IT?
On May 2, 2022, a leaked Supreme Court opinion made headlines and rocked faith in the sanctity of what have been thought of as bedrock rights, starting with a woman’s right to choose. Given that Republicans and Democrats both seemed utterly shocked by the likely outcome, we wanted to better understand how they have been advertising against it online and what’s changed since the leak.
The answer, using 2022 Facebook data as of the end of May, surprised us.
Year-to-date, on abortion messaging, Democratic-leaning spenders have outspent Republican-leaning ones 14 to 1.
Even when you remove Planned Parenthood, the single largest spender on this issue – accounting for 63% of all abortion-related spend among the top 50 political advertisers – Democrats still outspent Republicans on this topic by 4:1.
In 2022, Democrats have allocated roughly 19% of their Facebook ad spend to abortion-related ads whereas Republicans have only utilized 1% of theirs.
What about the month since the decision was leaked?
Surely Republicans celebrated and used it to motivate their voters? While Republicans increased spend on abortion related ads 805% and Democrats 364% MoM, abortion-related spend still only accounted for about 6% of Republicans’ Facebook ad spend in May.
Left-leaning spenders dominate the list, with Planned Parenthood leading the pack.
These Democratic-leaning groups, featuring marquee organization and campaigns, are largely using the ads as supporter list-building and fundraising vehicles. On the other hand, most of the top Republican spenders on abortion do not rank in the top 50 political advertisers on Facebook. Among the top 10 advertisers overall for each party, the ratio of spend on abortion between Democrats and Republicans is 5:1 in April and and 7:1 in May.
On both sides of the aisle, the spenders trend towards national organizations and large U.S. Senate campaigns; November-focused campaign ad spending will begin to ramp up this summer.
Several of the top 50 Republican Facebook spenders overall chose not to allocate a single dollar to the issue on Facebook.
Typically loud voices like Newsmax and Sen. Ted Cruz are not spending at all on the issue.
We pushed on a few potential theories and the only one that is supported by data is that a total reversal of Roe is unpopular.
According to a recent Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves “pro-choice” has risen in the past year to 55%, its highest level in decades. 69% of Americans do NOT want to see Roe v Wade overturned.
Many right-leaning groups are focusing beyond choice, leveraging anti-”woke” and anti-LGBTQ+ messages for broader audiences.
The #1 right-leaning political spender on Facebook through May 2022 was Prager U, an advocacy group. Following the leak, they continued their drumbeat of anti-LGTBQ+ and anti-”woke” messaging on paid and organic Facebook and did not invest in abortion-related content.
In this data, there’s a clear catalyzing movement for Democratic-leaning organizations, and a stark lack of one for Republican-leaning ones.
Due to the natural political calendar, this current data implicitly provides a look into how nationally-focused organizations and the largest campaigns are leveraging this issue to expand their supporter and donor bases.
Campaigns, both Democratic and Republican, that will be competing for swing district voters do not typically start advertising in earnest until mid to late summer. A second look at this data then will provide a view into how this messaging shifts as the focus changes from attracting supporters to galvanizing voters.
METHODOLOGY AND SOURCES
TOPIC ANALYSIS: TFC classified individual ads as belonging to a topic using a keyword-based classifier using the copy and link text provided by Facebook. A single ad can belong to multiple topics. For this report, we examined a broad and extensive list of terms that relate to abortion, including terms typically used on the left, e.g. pro-choice, and terms used more often on the right, such as pro-life.
SPEND FIGURES: Facebook spending data sourced from the Ad Library. Unless otherwise noted, all data presented pulled from the top 50 political advertisers on Facebook, i.e. the top 50 advertisers who have spent the most in 2022 on political themed ads. Spend on specific topics is calculated by interpolating the ranges provided by Facebook per individual advertisement against the exact daily spend figures provided by Facebook.