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Consumers oppose being microtargeted by political advertising

March 10, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research Director – DCN @Randeloo

Consumers are very aware that social platforms and websites collect information about them. However, most Americans say political campaigns should not be able to target them with digital ads based on their online activities. In fact, according to the Knight Foundation and Gallup’s new research, nearly all say they believe that Facebook and Google (97%), Amazon (96%), and news sites or apps (88%) collect data on their browsing history and purchasing habits. However, this research found that 72% say that internet companies should make no information about users available to political campaigns in order to microtarget certain voters with online advertisements.

Limited targeting

A much smaller population of consumers (20%) state that general details about internet users, such as their gender, age or zip code should be permissible to use for targeting. This is in line with the advertising policy at Google, which limits the information political campaigns can use for targeting. Interestingly, 7% of U.S. consumers are okay with microtargeting saying that any information should be made available for a campaign’s use. This is consistent with Facebook’s practice, which does not place any such limits ad targeting.

Acceptable approach

Almost 60% of consumers favor websites showing ads with the disclosure of who paid for the ad, how much it cost, and whom the ad is aimed at. However, there’s a smaller consumer population (20%) that wants no political advertising in absolute terms. This is the policy adopted by Twitter.

An even smaller consumer base of 4% want no political ads shown in the final month of an election campaign. Juxtaposed to this is 16% of consumers who believe ads should not be regulated because they are a form of free speech.

Further, almost all consumers believe platforms should refuse misleading content in political ads.

Specifically, consumers said social media should not allow political ads that would target supporters of an opposing candidate and provide the wrong election date (81%). In addition, consumers said that platforms should not allow display ads that say a politician voted for a policy if in fact, they did not (62%). Close to half of all consumers (45%) think that social media companies should not accept ads that misrepresents or omit facts about a candidate.

Political parties react differently

  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to favor stronger policies regarding content in political ads. Nine in 10 Democrats (91%) say an ad targeting an opponent’s supporters with an incorrect election date should be refused, compared with 73% Republicans.
  • Seven in 10 Democrats (71%) compared to Republicans (55%) say an ad that contains an inaccuracy about a politician’s voting record should be refused, while half of.
  • Fifty percent of Democrats say an ad omitting some details about a candidate’s position should be refused compared to 41% of Republicans.

Currently, there’s much debate in D.C. and Silicon Valley about microtargeting political ads. Social seem content to make their own policy decisions. Unfortunately, this leaves consumers very vulnerable and concerned about the often divisive, and even false

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