LONDON — With less than two weeks to go before the United Kingdom heads to the polls, there is still plenty of confusion about how the country’s political parties are targeting voters online.
Social media messaging. Viral partisan content. Digital attack ads. You name it — all of the U.K.’s parties are using them.
To cut through the noise, POLITICO teamed up with researchers from New York University.
The researchers pulled all the paid-for partisan ads bought by British groups on Facebook — which represent roughly 80 percent of all political messaging — from November 7 onwards, analyzing who was buying what in order to target which type of voter. (You can access their independent results here, based on the social network’s transparency tools.)
Facebook does not provide a specific breakdown of money spent on these ads, only a range. So the academics calculated total spend by relying on the midpoint of the figures provided by the social networking giant. They also combined all the Facebook ad spending for the country’s four main national parties (the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party) from both these groups’ main social media pages and those from regional and local affiliates to give countrywide totals.
POLITICO also crunched its own figures, based on Facebook’s transparency reports and CrowdTangle, a social networking analysis tool, to figure out how much each British political party had paid for each of its ads, as well as how successful both some anti- and pro-Brexit Facebook pages had been since early September at reaching would-be voters online.
The result is the most comprehensive overview yet of what is happening on Facebook ahead of the country’s December 12 vote.