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Politicians, particularly Democrats, continue to spend a fortune on Twitter ads even as advertisers leave the platform in droves

Madison Hall   

Politicians, particularly Democrats, continue to spend a fortune on Twitter ads even as advertisers leave the platform in droves
  • X could reportedly lose up to $75 million in missed ad revenue by the end of the year.
  • The exodus of advertisers comes as Elon Musk spread antisemitic messages and misinformation.

Advertisers have left Elon Musk's social media platform in droves since he officially took over Twitter in late 2022, changed its name to "X," and posted antisemitic and racist messages on numerous occasions.

X claims it's only set to lose around $11 million connected to the fallout, though a New York Times report notes the company could miss out on up to $75 million in ad revenue.

But as many of the top advertisers on the platform leave the site — especially after Musk personally told them "go fuck yourself" several times in a live interview Wednesday — a key group has continued to spend on advertisements: political campaigns.

After lifting the company's ban on serving political ads in early 2023, a dataset provided to Business Insider from X of all the site's political ads served this year shows that ad buyers have spent more than $1.7 million on X posts promoting a candidate or their "war room's" account, leading to more than 500 million impressions.

Accounting for political ads promoting the accounts of political and other cause-based groups, X has brought in more than $4.5 million, leading to 1.2 billion total impressions.

Further cleaning and organizing of the data reveals that while Democrats have repeatedly clashed with Musk over how he's led the company, they've invested the most in political advertising on the site.

According to the data, groups have spent just over $900,000 promoting Democratic accounts compared to the approximately $840,000 on Republican ones. The approximately $60,000 difference in ad spending appears to have paid off — the Democratic accounts reportedly received more than 30 million more impressions.

The great divide

While a similar amount of money has been spent promoting Republican and Democratic posts, there appears to be a distinct divide in how the two parties are spending on the platform: Democrats tend to spend much more for competitive Senate races whereas Republicans seemingly have calculated the money is best spent on the upcoming presidential race.

For example, more than $330,000 has been spent promoting GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' posts, but not a single dollar has been spent on X this year promoting a post from Biden or his campaign.

On the flip side, six of the top seven Democratic accounts that groups spent the most boosting were of politicians locked in tight Senate races, like Montana Sen. Jon Tester who's running for reelection, and Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who'll likely face off against current Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Kari Lake.

As to why Democrats are spending on a platform that many have indicated is antithetical to their values, there are clearly advantages.

The purpose of these ads is likely to grow email and text lists, so that possible donors can be identified now and pushed for money later on in the election cycle. Democrats tend to spend more and spend earlier on digital, according to a Democratic campaign strategist.

That the Senate candidates continue to spend money on X is evidence in and of itself that the strategy has some return: if a campaign is putting a lot of money behind an ad format, that tends to mean it's been accomplishing what they want it to at a favorable price.

The House isn't in order

Earlier in November, a coalition of House Democrats sent Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino a letter detailing their "grave concern" about how the company appears to be profiting off of the promotion of "misinformation and hateful, violent, and terroristic propaganda videos."

Signed onto the letter were two prominent House Democrats: Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, who are currently locked in a competitive race to formally succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the Senate after she died in September.

Both Schiff and Porter also have had more than $70,000 spent each promoting their posts on X either by their campaign or an outside group, the data does not specify who in particular paid for the advertisement.

More than $20,000 more was spent promoting Schiff's X posts, however, the data provided by X shows Porter still received an additional million impressions than her competitor from the promoted posts.

A Democratic legislator who also signed onto the letter to Musk and Yaccarino, Rep. Dan Goldman, has also had his office pay to promote his page on X this year, data shows. A staffer of his, however, recently told Politico they have not spent a cent on the platform since Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7, a claim supported by the data.

Unlike Goldman, groups have continued to pay to promote both Porter and Schiff's tweets since the conflict began and rampant wartime disinformation began to circulate the platform. Schiff's latest promoted post happened on October 30, Porter's on October 12.

Neither Porter nor Schiff's campaign responded to Business Insider's requests for comment.

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