By Julia Schulze
According to Facebook’s Audience Insights, there are 15 – 20 million active Facebook users in Texas ages 18 and up. When planning your next digital campaign to reach Texas voters, consider this: The population of Texas is approximately 28 million, with roughly 7 million under 18 (not eligible to vote). This means Facebook is collecting data sets on the majority of eligible voters in the state.
The good news for folks working in public affairs or marketing is that these data sets have been anonymized and researchers can interact with them to better understand their target audiences. Because the data sets are readily available to the public, we can use it to search for patterns based on political ideology. Discerning these patterns is helpful when setting up Facebook ad campaigns.
Even if a user hasn’t filled out the political views section in their profile, Facebook takes its best guess based on the content they interact with online. Here’s how Facebook breaks down users in Texas by political views.
If we add “conservative” + “very conservative” and “liberal + very liberal” the totals are 7M and 6M respectively. With a difference of one million people, we can see how much voter turnout can affect an election outcome. We can also see how much impact moderate voters have. For example, the state’s electoral makeup would look very different if “liberals” could secure two-thirds of voters from the moderate group. For simplicity, we are combining these subgroups for the remainder of the analysis (very conservative + conservative and very liberal + liberal).
So who are these people exactly? Let’s dig into the data and see. As a benchmark, Texans on Facebook are 53% women and 47% men. Here’s how gender breaks down by ideology:
Traditional polls from the Pew Research Center (among others) have found that younger people tend to identify as Democrats, so it is not surprising that the Facebook data below is consistent with this trend.
Facebook also makes a guess on whether a user owns or rents their home based on their activity. After looking at the age demographics and knowing that fewer young people own a house, we can see that the conservative group is more likely to own their home.
The age statistics also go hand in hand with the fact that more conservatives are married. Facebook Audience Insights suggests that the more conservative someone is, the less likely they are to be single. In fact, if we compare those who are “very conservative” with the “very liberal” group, we see a sharp contrast, with 16% and 44% single respectively.
Another interesting element of Facebook data is that it can give you an idea of a target audience’s interests based on pages that they like. Even though these three groups can disagree politically, they share a love for the Dallas Cowboys and Whataburger, as most true Texans do. Although Facebook does not ask users to provide their race or ethnicity, the pages people “like” can provide clues. For example, we can make a reasonable assumption that the liberal group leans more multicultural since top pages include “I Love Being Black” and “Mundo Hispanico.”
If you’ve never looked at your Facebook ad preferences before, it’s worth taking a peek. Some of the interests might seem silly, but overall it is pretty accurate. For example, a few of my own preferences were washing machines (I guess I clicked on an ad?), Harry Potter, soft pretzels, the Texas Tribune, jazz, and schnauzers. Check and check! You can find the political views it has set for you by clicking More and then selecting Lifestyle and Culture from the dropdown menu.
As more people join Facebook, the data about their interests is being updated constantly based on the content they share or engage with. Combining the Facebook demographics with traditional research, such as the Census data, is a great way to scope out an area where you’d like to run a digital media or grassroots campaign. Stay tuned for Part II of this series where we’ll dig into Facebook’s political data related to income, job titles, cities, and more.