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

  • Michael W. Sances (a1)

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.

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
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