Jul 27, 2019


Post by 
George Potts

his is second in a series of posts about the groundbreaking New York University (NYU) examination of Facebook’s new United States political ad archive launched May 24, 2018.

Washington D.C., Nevada and Colorado received the highest political advertising impressions on Facebook per capita according to NYU’s analysis of 1.44 billion impressions generated by 267,000 political ads.

D.C. is the highest targeted geolocation. Facebook users in our nation’s capital actually receive 3 to 4 more political ads in their Newsfeeds on average than the top targeted states.

  • Washington D.C. – 11.6 impressions per capita
  • Nevada – 8.4
  • Colorado – 7.4
  • Maine – 7.1

The NYU research team used 2010 U.S. census data to develop impressions per capita by state and the District.

Given that 25% of the employees in Washington are employed by a federal government agency and another significant percentage of D.C.’s population work for law firms, defense contractors, civilian contractors, not-for-profit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups and professional associations all in the Federal District to be close to the government, the study’s finding is not surprising.

We are also not astonished with the three states that followed Washington D.C., taking into consideration the 8-week period of the study from May 2018 to July 2018 and the nature of the June primary elections for Nevada, Colorado and Maine.

  • Gov. Brian Sandoval is barred by term limits, the primary race was very competitive, and the general election is expected to be too.
  • The Third Congressional District was crowded in both Democrat and Republican primaries.
  • The Senate race might be one of the fiercest in the nation this fall and may have heated up early since the primaries were easy wins for both parties.

Gov. John Hickenlooper like Sandoval in Nevada is excluded from running again due to term limits and the race is hotly contested.

  • The state’s first election using ranked-choice voting.
  • Another gubernatorial term limit scenario with eleven primary candidates, seven Democrats and four Republicans.

The Fifth Influence team is intrigued though with the heat map of the Facebook ad impressions per capita by state that the NYU team published in their report. Maryland, Michigan, Montana and Oklahoma all seem to be similar to Colorado and Maine. See below.

Heat map weighted by per capita impressions per state.

We are curious how far removed they are from the other top states. Specific impressions per capita figures were only provided for the top 4 states and bottom 3 states.

The least targeted states were Delaware, Nebraska and New Hampshire, all registering 0.9.

It is obvious to Fifth Influence, and will not be a surprise to most, that states will move up and down the Facebook political ads per capita impressions ranking from election cycle to election cycle based on the competitive level of races in each state. We will watch future studies closely to see if certain states maintain consistently high per capita impressions for Facebook political advertising. Such states may be special like Washington D.C. We anticipate the District will continue to be the most targeted geolocation year after year.