On midnight of October 26, Facebook stopped accepting all new advertisements about “social issues, elections, or politics in the US.” The intention was to prevent Facebook from being overwhelmed by a blitz of last-minute ads that would require fact-checking, and to limit the ability of political groups to sow confusion or violence. Advertisers were not blocked from running old ads, however: Facebook’s rules meant they could continue to run already-approved political ads through to the end of Election Day, after which they were all removed.
We already know that turnout was historically high across both Democrats and Republican voters. Though it looks as if Joe Biden will receive the highest number of votes for any presidential candidate in history, Donald Trump is on track to receive the second-highest number. Republican competitiveness in the face of such high turnout was a surprise to many, and not always reflected in polls taken before the vote itself. There are a number of possible explanations, but one major difference was a huge last-minute investment in ads that encouraged turnout by Republicans.
What the data says
The biggest spender on Election Day was “Register to Vote Republican,” a page that is registered under the Republican National Committee. It spent $1.3 million on ads on November 3 alone. In fact, while it spent about $5.3 million on the campaign since the page was created on July 24, around $3.3 million of that came in the seven days before the pause.
“Get out the vote” ads are typical toward the end of a campaign, but the last-minute push to register Republicans dominated the political ads on Facebook in the