Political ads on Facebook


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The role played by the internet and social networks in recent elections has been growing constantly. The candidates and parties standing in the 2019 European Parliament election spent spent millions of euros on election advertising on Facebook, a clear trend towards a greater role for money in EU politics.

A team of seven EDJNet newsrooms looked at how much was spent in each country, and who spent the most, by analysing Facebook ads data from the 28 EU member states. We also examined the content of around 35,000 online ads from five different countries, finding that the communication strategies of the national parties sitting together in European Parliament political groups differ greatly.

Main findings:

  • Facebook data show that in the three months running up to the European elections, the total amount spent on political advertisements on Facebook was approximately 23.5 million euro. Advertisers in Germany spent the most (3.5 million), followed by those in the UK (3.3 million), Spain (2.7 million), Belgium (2.4 million) and Italy (1.8 million).
  • From the beginning of March to the end of May 2019, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the political parties which compose political groups across Europe paid 3.9 million euro for a total of 6,686 ads. Spending by the European institutions and European parties accounted for 16% of the total spending during these three months; almost all other ads were created by national parties or individual candidates.
  • There were pronounced differences in the preoccupations of the main parties : Austria’s ÖVP stressed the economy, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party in Hungary devoted half its advertising spend to immigration – a subject that was barely mentioned at all by Germany’s CDU/CSU parties. At the same time, the Swedish People’s Party focused strongly on climate and the environment.
  • There are some topics, such as the economy, that parties right across the political spectrum spent a lot of their advertising budget on.

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The data unit

Markus Hametner (Addendum, coordinator) is a data journalist at the investigative journalism outlet Addendum.org.

EDJNet members which took part in this investigation: