Geographic impressions in Facebook political ads

Posted on 23.02.2021 - 05:14
Abstract Online political advertising is becoming increasingly popular as political campaigns recognize the utility of social network platforms, like Facebook, for reaching and engaging with voters. Yet, contrary to the wealth of information about campaign advertising on TV, little is known about advertising online, as comprehensive data only recently became available to scholars. Moreover, the newly available data is often aggregated, incomplete, and imprecise. Here, we present an analysis of Facebook political ad data, supplemented with funding-related meta-data obtained through human coding and a partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics. Through computational tools—namely, network analysis—we aim to use this data to describe and categorize political ad funding behavior on Facebook. Specifically, we focus on the geographic concentration of ads, and discover that most ads reach an audience in a single geographic region (i.e., U.S. state) or in a wide range of regions, and very few reach an audience spanning a small number of regions. We use this observation to partition funding entities into three groups based on their relationships to regionally-concentrated ads. We then examine the differences between these groups via bipartite networks connecting funding entities to their geographic audiences, as well as content they support. Our findings reveal that geographic impressions play an important role in online political advertising, and can be used to classify funding entities. As a result, this study represents a step toward ensuring political funding transparency and demystifying online political advertising more broadly.


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Gitomer, Adina; Oleinikov, Pavel V.; Baum, Laura M.; Fowler, Erika Franklin; Shai, Saray (2021): Geographic impressions in Facebook political ads. figshare. Collection.



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Adina Gitomer
Pavel V. Oleinikov
Laura M. Baum
Erika Franklin Fowler
Saray Shai
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