Analysis: Who is spending the most on Facebook political advertising in Utah?

You’ve probably seen dozens, maybe even hundreds of political ads on Facebook this campaign season. The social media platform allows candidates and political groups to reach voters with ads for significantly less money than traditional television and radio advertising. It’s more bang for fewer bucks.

An analysis of data released by the social media company shows United Utah Party 1st Congressional District candidate Eric Eliason has spent more than any other Utah candidate or group on Facebook advertising from May through October 20. During that period, Eliason dropped $51,361 for Facebook advertising. That money hasn’t done him much good, though. Polls show he trails Rep. Rob Bishop by more than 30-points. So far this cycle, Bishop’s campaign has spent $5,796 on Facebook advertising, while Democrat Lee Castillo has spent $1,826.

In the hotly contested 4th District race, Democrat Ben McAdams has vastly outspent Love on Facebook advertising. So far, McAdams has spent $19,803 while Love has only spent $1,902. The outside group “U Work 4 Utah” has spent $3,083 on ads promoting their page “Mia Love defends Donald Trump.”

Mitt Romney’s campaign has allocated $25,798 for advertising on Facebook, while his Democratic opponent Jenny Wilson has expended $11,784.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Shireen Ghorbani spent $11,507 on ads while Republican Chris Stewart only shelled out $650. Polling shows Stewart has a double-digit lead over Ghorbani.

Groups are spending big on Utah’s 3 ballot initiatives and the non-binding Question 1. Our Schools Now, the group pushing voters to approve a non-binding measure to raise gasoline taxes to better fund Utah’s schools, has spent $34,991. The only opposition spending on Facebook Ads has come from Keep My Voice, the group ostensibly formed to oppose Utah’s dual-track nomination system. They’ve expended $327 on advertising. “Utah students for Question 1” spent $3,809 in support of the issue.

Backers of Prop. 3, which would fully expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, have dropped a total of $21,553 on ads supporting the initiative.

Prop. 2, which legalizes medical marijuana, has seen social media spending from both sides. The opposition group “Truth about Prop. 2” spent $5,556 on Facebook ads, while another opposing group, Drug Safe Utah, reported $1,451 on ads. The Utah Patients Coalition, which backed the initiative, spent $2,076.

Prop. 4, which creates an independent redistricting commission, has seen significant spending in support. Utahns for Responsive Government have dropped $27,316.

The newly formed group, Utahns for Balanced Government, has spent $482 so far on Facebook advertising opposing Constitutional Amendment C. The Legislature would be able to call itself into special session if voters approve the proposal. Right now, that power only lies with the governor.

Candidates in a couple of legislative races that could be close on election day have seen significant spending on Facebook ads.

  • Democrat Suzanne Harrison, who lost her election in House District 32 by 5 votes in 2016, has spent $8,615 on Facebook advertising so far. Republican Brad Bonham has spent $4,415 on ads.
  • In Senate District 8, incumbent Republican Brian Zehnder has spent $2,225 on Facebook ads, while his Democratic opponent, Kathleen Riebe, reported spending $2,135 since May.

Several independent groups and political parties are spending significant sums on social media ahead of November’s election.

  • Voices for Utah Children spent $36,128.
  • Americans for Prosperity Utah expended $4,556.
  • The United Utah Party is tops among political parties, spending $2,224.
  • Utah Republicans spent $631 according to the data.
  • Utah Democrats reported spending $1,033.
  • The Utah Senate Democratic Campaign Fund allocated $2,223 on Facebook ads.

Sim Gill has spent $9,676 on Facebook ads in his bid for another term as Salt Lake County District Attorney. His opponent, Nathan Evershed, spent $7,288. The independent group, Democrats for Nathan Evershed, spent $349 on ads.

Finally, the Lt. Governor’s Office has dropped $17,173 on Facebook ads for their “Vote Utah” campaign, urging Utahns to cast a ballot.