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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Inside Trump's $15 million Facebook spend

It's another world on Facebook, where President Donald

It's another world on Facebook, where President Donald Trump writes in Spanish and blasts socialists while blowing Democrats out of the water in ad spending. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/MANDEL NGAN

After Miami debates with healthy ratings and blaring headlines about big fundraising and candidate introductions good or bad, it may seem that Democrats command the nation’s attention at this point in the 2020 cycle.

But on Facebook, it’s a different story.

President Donald Trump is absolutely blowing Democrats out of the water in Facebook ad spending, garnering what appears to be millions of impressions around the country.

Trump’s page spent $14,801,032 on ads from May 2018 to Jun 30, 2019, according to Facebook’s ad archive. For contrast, top Democrats have each spent between $1 million and $2 million over the same period. And Trump’s Facebook expenditures over that period are larger than that of Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar combined.

That’s having a big affect on what political messages voters actually see.

The ads include fundraising appeals to help the president add to his already hefty campaign coffers. And Trump is trying to guide the conversation about Democrats, who his ads relentlessly say “have embraced full-blown SOCIALISM.”

The ads focus on “THE WALL” and “FAKE NEWS,” and they claim that Trump’s policies have “created a BOOMING economy and rampant job creation.”

He talks of needing supporters to help him “CRUSH the liberal mob in 2020.”

The material ranges from the corny to the bizarre.

One ad has Trump saying in Santa Claus fashion that “Tonight, I'm going to review a list of everyone who has pledged to vote to Keep America Great in 2020! After the election, I will know that YOU were one of the first to publicly pledge their support.” Please go to the website and type in your name and contact info, etc. 

Another ad addresses the economy — in Spanish: “La aprobación de trabajo del Presidente Trump HA AUMENTADO 14% entre los latinos. ¡Lea más para saber CÓMO!’’

The language choice clashes a bit with the wide variety of anti-immigration screeds. There are surveys with questions like: “Which group should our government put first?” The choices are “American Citizens” or “Illegal Aliens.”

Another question nudges: “Do you believe that the colossal surge of illegal aliens is overwhelming our immigration system to the point that our country is FULL?”

Who is seeing all this content? The ads include many variants so as to allow targeting to specific groups, states, and age ranges to ensure best reception. But many are reaching older voters: An Axios analysis this spring found that the Trump campaign was spending a big chunk of its Facebook ad budget targeting those age 65 and older.

That makes sense for the main platform, which tends to skew older than Facebook’s Instagram, as well as other newer social media entities. It also makes sense strategically, as Trump’s vote share was much higher among older than younger voters in 2016.

And if the ads aren’t targeted to you, you might not see them at all. You can’t be someone else on Facebook, in the same way that you can flip the channel for a cross-the-aisle sample. That and the huge Trump spending may deepen diverging viewpoints already present in the Fox News-MSNBC divide. A tale of two countries, signed in.

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