Political Ads: A Disconnected College Student's Perspective

By Sarah Warren on November 6, 2016

For a late millennial college student, I’m don’t use much social media. Other than Facebook for keeping up with my friends back home and Twitter to promote my writing, I’m not on any social media. This means that I’m hard to reach with online political ads. Since I’m not on much social media, I’m not splitting my time between a variety of sites and screens. If a company or candidate wants to target me, they’ve got less exposure time with me than most people my age. Without getting into candidates’ policies or ad hominem attacks – been there, done that – this piece will examine my experience with political ads and what this experience can tell us about the changing face of political ads.




What I See…
Considering he’s made such a big deal about funding his own campaign and how much money he has, you’d think the preponderance of political ads would be in favor of Trump. A prime example of how of how untrue this is: a Hillary Clinton ad played before the linked video of Trump talking about self-funding his campaign. Whether it’s a banner across my homepage asking me to “Stand with Her” or a hyperbolic endorsement from James Franco, the majority of political ads I see are for Hillary Clinton. Not only that, but most of those political ads are anti-Trump. That is, rather than promoting Clinton, they focus on discrediting Trump.

Where I See It…
These political ads are present on every website I visit regularly – Facebook, Twitter, MSN.com, and YouTube. When my roommates play Disney music on Spotify, a Hillary Clinton ad plays every thirty minutes, sandwiched between a Glade candle commercial and a nonspecific SC Johnson ad.  Granted, I don’t have access to cable - which seems to be the case more and more for millennials - but I can’t recall the last time I saw a political ad for Donald Trump. I’m beginning to wonder if he is advertising at all or is simply relying on his reputation to precede him at the polls.

What It Means…
Because Florida is a swing state, it seems illogical to think that a candidate would choose not to advertise to Floridians - particularly since Florida has twenty-nine electoral votes. If geography is not the issue, then what? Certainly it can’t be the websites I’m visiting or not visiting. Facebook and Twitter are perhaps the most popular social media outlets and are filled with liberals and conservatives alike, yet I consistently see nothing but political ads for the Clinton campaign.

Could this be part of the reason why Donald trump is doing so poorly with young voters? It’s no secret that both candidates have policies and personalities that some voters find polarizing. And while there’s no shame in focusing campaign efforts on specific demographics, it seems illogical to leave out an entire age group in one’s political strategy.

What I’m Curious About…
In light of what seems like a nonsensical strategy, I would like to close this piece with a question to be settled in the comment section or amongst your friends: Why do you think there is a disproportionate amount of Hillary Clinton ads to Donald Trump ads on social media? Do you think it’s media bias, demographic targeting, or differing political alliances? And, finally, do you think it matters?

Sarah R. Warren is a student of English Literature and Political Science at Florida State University. Her work has appeared in Ant vs Whale, Creative Communications' 2014 Spring Anthology, HowlRound, and the PULP magazine. Her poetry has received an honorable mention, Silver Key, and Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is grateful to God for the opportunity to write at Uloop and attend such a wonderful university.

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