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Missing the Target? Using Surveys to Validate Social Media Ad Targeting

Michael W. Sances

Political Science Research and Methods, 2021, vol. 9, issue 1, 215-222

Abstract: Facebook ads are increasingly used by political scientists as a method of survey recruitment. A key advantage is said to be the ability to recruit targeted audiences defined by demographics, political beliefs, location, and numerous other attributes. The same feature has been decried by non-researchers concerned about potential racial discrimination and foreign influence in elections. The extent to which these ads actually reach their targets, however, is unknown. Using a series of six surveys and 20 targeted ads, I show these ads regularly fail to reach their targets. The success rate ranges from 23 to 99 percent, and ads targeted toward groups defined by self-reported data and broader geographic locations are generally more successful.

Date: 2021
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Handle: RePEc:cup:pscirm:v:9:y:2021:i:1:p:215-222_16